HISTORIC Halesowen Abbey could soon have a visitors centre if a controversial planning application gets the go-ahead.

English Heritage, Dudley Council, The Abbey Trust and the land’s owner are discussing plans to convert the farm buildings in to six homes and build a visitor centre.

However, the barns are on land where there is believed to be a rich seam of artefacts buried and conservationists are eager to ensure any construction work will not disturb the hidden treasures.

The Abbey, which was founded in the 13th Century and but fell into ruin after Henry VIII closed it down, is seen as one of the most important relics in the Midlands.

Last year the Halesowen Abbey Trust began holding open days on behalf of English Heritage with the blessing of the owner Chris Tudor.

The Trust is giving a cautious backing to the proposals but has laid down a list of demands to ensure the site will be preserved for future generations.

A Trust spokesman said: “The barns lie over the archaeologically rich core site of the Scheduled Ancient Monument.

“If permission is granted then all excavations should be dug by hand to minimise archaeological damage.

English Heritage has also given the proposals its backing after inspecting the plans in detail.

Ian George, inspector of ancient monuments at English Heritage, backed the planning application.

He said: “Planning permission should be granted on condition that the groundworks are archaeologically supervised and appropriate recording of features of interest occurs.”

The council’s planning department has already had objections concerning the application.

Mr Pritchard said: “I want to register an objection to this on the grounds that it is an historic site which should not have a housing development on it.

“I see this as the this end of the wedge to have further building in due course and the proposal to build a visitor centre is a ploy to win favour for the development.”