Archaeologists are to dig up part of the grounds of an Ilkley church which stands on the site of a Roman fort.

Permission is being sought for excavations at All Saints’ Church to clear the way for an extension at its neighbour, Church House.

The church, which lies at the crossroads in Ilkley, stands on the site of the Roman fort of Olicana, which is protected by scheduled monument status.

Church officials have been in negotiations with English Heritage and planners about proposals for improvements, which include internal work in the church and a small extension to Church House, which is used by community groups.

The vicar of All Saints’, the Reverend Lee Townend, said the church needed the facilities for its steadily-growing congregation. “We want to ensure the buildings retain their historical dignity while making them high quality and fit for purpose for the community today,” he said.

“It’s only small-scale in terms of extensions but we need to make sure it’s not going to be damaging. If we do find something, that’s great, but we want to make sure we protect the site.”

Planning regulations require an archaeological evaluation to take place before a formal application to build on a scheduled monument can be submitted.

Archaeological Services WYAS have been asked to undertake the work in Castle Yard but cannot progress until permission has been granted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The fort of Olicana, abandoned in the late fourth or fifth century AD, fell into ruins but became the focus for the town’s development. All Saints’ Church dates to Norman times but was substantially rebuilt in the 1860s.

Mr Townend said parishioners had already raised about a quarter of the estimated costs for improvements.

“We want to be a real community resource,” he said.