Oswestry Town Council has invited English Heritage to meet them “so we have all relevant information and views to hand”. But actually don’t they have “all the relevant information and views to hand” already? If they want to know what the public thinks they can read the Petition and if they want to know what they themselves think they can read their own past statement saying they aren’t in favour of anything that would damage the historical significance of the hill fort. And if they want to know if the development will do that they can go up there today and calculate if any of the new houses will be visible. If any will then the setting will be damaged! [Incidentally, we've found something a bit surprising about the setting. Come back here on Tuesday!]
So why would they seek further information when they have all they need? Well, they say “we need to hear first hand from English Heritage who are the national guardians of this site which has such international importance.” So it’s because EH are “national guardians”. However, they should know that EH officials are medically identifiable: hearts in the right place but arms twisted behind their backs. Yes EH is the designated Heritage Champion but it’s also the creature of its paymaster, the Government (and you know what they’re like). So if the Council thinks writing to EH will get them definitive support for no houses round the hill fort, they should beware. The ‘National Planning Policy Framework’ (by which EH is bound) has a “presumption in favour of sustainable development” (the implications of which are clear) and note the definition of conservation (of places like the hill fort) in that document. It doesn’t have the everyday meaning of “preservation”, it is defined as “the process of maintaining and managing change to a heritage asset in a way that sustains and where appropriate enhances its significance.”
So, if the Council wants to stand up for “no new houses round the hill fort” (and pass it on to the future unscathed by an ephemeral scrap of doctrinal policy that will by then be long-forgotten dust) they’d better say so plain and simple and not be persuaded to support “some new houses round the hill fort” by those clever heritage champion fellas up from that London (well Swindon probably, but London sounds more scarily authoritative!) On the other hand of course, some Councillors might secretly be in favour of putting some houses round the fort despite the fact the public is against it and are hoping to be able to say they “reluctantly accept the advice of the experts”. Salop, like Westminster and Whitehall, contains a wide range of characters.