A guest article by campaigner Diana Baur.

With support from countless high-profile historical experts, including Professor Mary Beard and Professor George Nash, nearly 6,000 people from Oswestry, Shropshire, and another 1,000 global supporters have asked English Heritage to outlaw completely ANY BUILDING AT ALL on the land around this magnificent Ancient Hillfort and keep it safe from development. Aren’t they entitled to get the wholehearted support of EH?

There are plenty of alternative potential sites on which to build houses both in and around Oswestry, but with its spectacular views of the Hillfort a development on this farmland would of course ooze prestige and the intended executive houses would bring high profits for the developers and large council taxes for Shropshire Council as well as government support grants for the next six years. So, all in all, heritage vandalism apart, it’s win, win, win. It’s an established fact that as its value wanes, money is becoming ever more influential. Like a robber, it ties the hands of our consciences, values, principles, compassion and judgement behind our backs. As with any drug, the greater the dependence upon it, the greater it’s influence in this respect.

Thank goodness that the belief in the importance of their hill fort that the people of Oswestry are expressing so forcefully is shared by EH, who say: “Old Oswestry is a hugely significant archaeological resource. Its importance is derived not only from its prehistoric legacy, but also from its contribution to later periods of history. Its incorporation into Wat’s Dyke marks a chapter in the formation of early medieval Britain and it played an important role in the first of two world wars that so dramatically shaped the world in which we live. Old Oswestry is also important for the richness of its wildlife and is a key component in maintaining the biodiversity of the local area”.

BUT EH are suffering. They have been progressively deprived of funding. See the article by their Chief Executive Simon Thurley titled “We are stuffed”! http://www.spectator.co.uk/arts/arts-feature/8920601/basically-we-are-stuffed-english-heritage-simon-thurley-interviewed/ That is perhaps a clue to how they behave. For instance, Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe is on the governing commission of EH, but has not replied to letters asking for support to save the Hillfort.

The party in government has its own short-term agenda –namely to be re-elected. Re-election strategies, namely meeting our housing shortfall abound. Developers are frequently at variance with preserving cultural heritage, as they choose prestige sites to command high house prices. In the circumstances it is unsurprising that EH is likely to choose to keep its teeth in a glass by the bed, its one good eye focused firmly on the pillow and, when asked, only dance to the tune that is played by its paymasters – or at least always make sure that the chorus line fits that requirement.

This is what nearly 6,000 good people of Oswestry very much hope is not happening, but appears to be in view of EH’s less than strong response to the plans to build around The Hillfort. They have recommended that plans for two of the three sites in question are not taken forward ( ie  Site OSW002 (Land off Gobowen Road) and Site OWS003 (Oldport Farm, Gobowen Road) – at least, not in their current form. But they  remain mealy mouthed on the third site. Site OSW004 (land off Whittington Road) – “Any development will need to take into account the local topography and integrate well with the existing built area together with creating a new, sympathetic urban edge for the town and its wider rural surroundings……  English Heritage would welcome continuing involvement in the detailed design and master planning of this site.” 

WHY ARE EH MEALY MOUTHED ABOUT THE THIRD SITE?   To repeat: With support from countless high-profile historical experts, including Professor Mary Beard and Professor George Nash, nearly 6,000 people from Oswestry and another 1,000 global supporters have asked English Heritage to outlaw completely ANY BUILDING AT ALL on the land around this magnificent Ancient Hillfort and keep it safe from development. Aren’t they entitled to get the wholehearted support of EH?