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The above of course is a fantasy. But it’s interesting because the distance from the monument to the houses, about 150 m, is similar to the first proposal for the development around Oswestry Hill Fort. What would be regarded as utterly ludicrous and unacceptable worldwide in Wiltshire is being pushed for in Shropshire. And yes, Shropshire County Council, “pushed for”. No-one should imagine it’s not obvious that for some people this isn’t a process, it’s a plan.
Anyway, those campaigning to keep Oswestry Hill Fort’s setting development-free may enjoy Section 7.2 of the November minutes of the English Heritage Advisory Committee, just released. It was a presentation on “setting” and how EH’s guidance on the subject has been “woven into government guidance”. Their key points on setting are:
- There is always a degree of subjectivity in assessing setting but EH guidance provides a standard framework and means of analysis. The Department for Communities and Local Government has accepted the approach.
- A line to define setting cannot be mapped in advance of development proposals coming forward. It is not fixed spatially.
- Appreciation of setting will change over time.
- While visual impacts, especially views, are likely to be the most important factors, other elements may well affect setting.
- Setting is not dependent upon public accessibility (but especially ‘popular’ views etc may be particularly important).
- Designed settings may well be more important than ‘fortuitous’ settings but the latter, e.g. in many conservation areas, may be a major part of the significance of the heritage asset.
- Setting has no significance in its own right: setting is not a heritage asset; it is not a designation.
- The interest in the setting of a heritage asset lies in what it adds to (or detracts from) the significance of the asset.
- Only some elements of the setting may have a bearing on that significance; others may be neutral.
- Buried archaeology can have a setting.
We suspect it is good news for the campaigners in 3 ways….
1. Nearly all of those points can be cited to suggest development would be inappropriate, not the reverse.
2. EH have formulated a standard framework and means of analysis for assessing setting which the Government has accepted. Nothing could be more sensible. It means there should be no purely subjective, inexplicable or unclear decisions, whether by officials, councillors or Inspectors.
3. EH has already said the Hillfort is “one of the greatest archaeological monuments of the nation” and yet, as everyone can see, it’s setting on the Town side has been reduced so much that it’s now derisory. So it would be SOME “standard framework and means of analysis” that enabled any official or councillor to successfully argue it ought to be even smaller! So bravo to EH for constructing a bulwark against impenetrable or idiosyncratic decisions.
That’s all the Campaigners have ever asked for or been owed, a fair assessment on the merits of the case. Nothing else.
Snip! Snap! Snip! the scissors go;
And Conrad cries out – Oh! Oh! Oh!
Snip! Snap! Snip! They go so fast;
That both his thumbs are off at last.
Some say “The Scissorman” is a real person. Others that he is merely being used as a literary device to represent The Profit Motive. Who knows? All that is certain is that whatever anyone tells you in posh technical language what’s really happening at Oswestry is a fight between those who want to conserve History and those who want to make a personal profit, the bigger the better. Yet how can one know that’s true when it’s easy to photograph History but impossible to photograph The Profit Motive?
Or is it?
That’s Balfarg Henge, Fife in the middle. The rest is The Profit Motive.
No, Oswestry Hill Fort isn’t going to look like that, not imminently anyway. (So no claims we’re spreading misinformation or using scare tactics please, we’re just showing how ruthless Money can be if left unopposed). What is yet to be revealed is the degree of success the Campaigners will have in preventing the Hill Fort looking anything like that. Half as bad or a tenth as bad would be an outrage. Yet The Profit Motive has given zero indication it gives a damn about History or is willing to exercise self-restraint – it would simply walk away if it did – so it all depends on the strength of those who believe the Hill Fort’s current setting should be kept entirely sacrosanct.
Diana Baur, (one of the Oswestry campaigners) sent us a comment yesterday that reminded us of The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb….
Here are the six highly pertinent questions put to Shropshire Council yesterday by the estimable John Waine on behalf of HOOOH followed by extracts (outlined in red) from the answers provided by Councillor M Price, Portfolio Holder for Strategic Planning. Please read both the questions and the answers carefully. What do YOU think is going on?
UPDATE: Fat lady is still silent, This from John Waine who represented the campaign at the Shropshire Council meeting this morning.
“Sadly and ashamedly Shropshire Council, or more specifically, Malcolm Price, has decided to ignore the decision and views of Oswestry Town Council and English Heritage and include OSW004 in their SAMDev plan. THE FIGHT GOES ON!!!”
Please see this…..
A couple of days ago a Government spokesman (let’s call him Dominic Fibber of Winchester, Balliol, White’s and Wimpey’s) told BBC News:
“Strong protections are in place for the Green Belt, ancient woodland, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and many other countryside and heritage treasures, such as World Heritage Sites. The national planning framework also puts power back into the hands of local people, ensuring they are in charge of deciding the areas they wish to see developed and those to be protected.”
Providing, that is, they fight like tigers, learn the planning system at breakneck speed, and get the support of top-notch experts to counter every spin and falsehood that’s put up. And even that’s not enough in the vast majority of cases, not unless the proposal is such an obvious, blatant, unforgivable assault on communal ownership that even it’s supporters eventually see it as shameful. Unless they are shameless.
Fantastic news, so far. Oswestry Town Council has now published its official statement based on Tuesday’s vote. This forms the basis of a letter they have sent to Shropshire Council ahead of today’s full Shropshire Council meeting on the draft SAMDev plan. It confirms they now oppose all three housing proposals adjacent to the hill fort.
Site OSW004 – part – Land off Whittington Road
“At our meeting last evening, acknowledging the revised view of English Heritage and also the various professional submissions and viewpoint on this matter, the Town Council now oppose the inclusion of OSW004 and formally request its removal.
The Council would ask Shropshire Council for a commitment following SAMDev to look to develop planning guidance for the Hillfort and its surrounds for the future bringing together interested agencies to formulate a strategy and policies looking to the historical and archaeological protection and promotion of the site.”
So now it’s down to Shropshire Council, meeting at 10.00am this morning…..
Whatever the claims to the contrary, all the reasons why two areas of potential residential development have been dropped also apply to the third – as has been eloquently shown by the campaigners’ and their refreshingly adequately qualified experts. So let’s hope that logic prevails and it too can become history. It may be a desperate fight though ….
Often when the public are concerned about an application to build near a monument there’s a remarkable absence of clear illustrations of what the development will look like. Lots of words, yes, but no pictures. Take a large Scheduled Monument and the hinterland around it, north of Oswestry – you’d think Shropshire Council (“championing the needs of residents and putting their interests first“) would have published nice pictures of that sort.
But no. So to help them, here’s one that someone put together and sent us:
It would be good if they now put links to it on their front page. Why wouldn’t they? Now THERE’S an interesting question. Why wouldn’t they?
[Image credit: HOOOH]
Please, please, please click on our Events Diary to the left (or here). It lists upcoming Prehistory and Heritage Events and it’s just fantastic! (I can say that as it isn’t me who faithfully maintains it, it’s Alan and Sue!). Not on there yet, but soon, is a Seminar & Exhibition In Defence of Old Oswestry Hillfort, a week Saturday. WELL worth a visit if you can make it.
Ironically the Events Diary is showing this event in Cardiff on the same day …
Workshop: I Love Archaeology
When:Sat, 22 February, 11:00 – 16:00
Where:National Museum Cardiff, Cardiff, United Kingdom
Workshop: The Origins Gallery at National Museum Cardiff displays the archaeological treasures of Wales.In this workshop you’ll find out more about some of the collections and contribute to a piece of collaborative art. http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/whatson/?event_id=6847
We’ve been sent this image by HOOOH, Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort. We thought we’d share it as it illustrates with perfect clarity why the idea of building hundreds of new houses close up to the monument is simply ludicrous.
Let’s hope it is sent to every councillor – including the one that quoted an isolated bit of case law that said that a monument would need to be in danger of evisceration before refusal was justified!
Or to the Government, which stated in 2011: ““The presumption in favour of sustainable development is not a green light for development….. Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and other designated land will retain the protections they enjoy today.”