Remember we said Oswestry Hillfort would have been safe in West Oxfordshire or West Sussex? Now you can add East Sussex too: “the Secretary of State also agrees with the Inspector’s conclusion that the scale of development proposed would have a harmful effect by eroding the existing clear sense of separation”. “A clear sense of separation” – which monument doesn’t deserve that? The massive one at Oswestry, it seems, even though The Heritage Impact Assessment said otherwise: “the most important physical element of the setting is the belt of agricultural land which surrounds the hill fort and is perceived as part of the monument”. (Note: belt, not crescent.) But this is Shropshireland. A decent gap (or even a derisory one) is bloody inconvenient – for how can you build on it?
So is that why the document then does a triple backward summersault? “Any suggestion that development per se is harmful – that the view would be ‘spoiled’ – is untenable, since this would not be a response based on a rational assessment of impact on significance” and “Development of the site is a logical extension of the urban fringe, and the montage shows that it would create a positive edge to the land which surrounds the hill fort.” See? Keeping a gap would be “untenable” whereas building on it would be “logical” and “positive”. Amazing eh?
Plus, (lest you doubt this is part of a deliberate Shropshireland act of monumenticide) see this from section 7.2.46: “At night, the orange glow of street lights is the dominant feature, and the hill fort is not visible.” Why mention the sun goes down? You can’t get more blatantly pro-development than by dragging up the fact the hillfort is invisible in the dark (and invisible monuments don’t need green gaps!)
The clues that there’s something rotten in the state of Shropshireland have long been there. It’s not just the inconsistencies with other authorities. It’s the fact there were also early signs. Below is the Oswestry Town Plan from back in 2013 – “an informed and influential guide to developers, setting out what matters most to local people”. See how tightly it is drawn and ask yourself why it is offset so it’s more generous to the North and miniscule on the town side…..
Then take a look at this, the subsequent development proposal. Oswestry Town Council opposed it. What a shame they didn’t realise earlier that the circle was so small it left a crucial gap – not for the monument but for the developers …..
[Finally, you might think that having realised the 2013 green circle was too small and had left a crucial gap for developers which they regretted, Oswestry wouldn’t have included the identical plan in their Town Plan 2020. But you’d be wrong. The implied open armed invitation to developers to come in and wreck the setting of the hillfort for grubby financial profit at public heritage cost is still there. Who was behind that convenient lack of change? No prizes for guessing.]
The Dismal Repugnate of Shropshireland eh? What an amazing place, so different from West Oxfordshire and West & East Sussex. Maybe the Government should take direct control?