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Ladies and Gentlemen:

Why is it that when someone recently wanted to build 10 houses in Morda on the edge of Oswestry and 100 people signed a petition against it you said “no” on the grounds that the plans  went against the wishes of the community

whereas when someone wanted to build 188 houses in the setting of a world famous hill fort on the edge of Oswestry and 6,000 people signed a petition against it ….. you just pushed ahead regardless? 

Would it be a good idea to publicly explain why your reactions to the two cases are so different?

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salopia.

And while you’re at it perhaps you could also explain why your planning Cabinet member’s statement that
taking into account what the public have said we have proposed some new options that better meet the needs of the public
shouldn’t be taken as meaning ….
“we are determined to ignore what the public have clearly said”.

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Thanks.

by Sandy Gerrard

For nearly two years I have been writing about the wind farm development at Mynydd y Betws. Some shortcomings in the actions of the various agencies who are supposed to ensure that archaeological interests were safeguarded have been highlighted. The newly updated Google Map for the area illustrates the effect on the scheduled archaeology within the area better than words alone.

Google Map image of Mynydd y Betws showing the impact of the new wind farm on this rich archaeological landscape. The scheduled archaeology is highlighted in red and the position of the probable stone row shown in green.

Google Map image of Mynydd y Betws showing the impact of the new wind farm on this rich archaeological landscape. The scheduled archaeology is highlighted in red and the position of the probable stone row is shown in green.

There are eight scheduled monuments scattered over the mountain and the landscape in which they sit has been altered significantly. The aerial perspective provides a clear insight into the impact of the development and demonstrates the true scale of this venture. The landscape has been carved up and whilst scheduling has safeguarded the physical remains within the scheduled areas their context has been injured and many associated deposits destroyed. In addition to the scheduled archaeology there is a wide array of archaeological remains which have no protection. Some of these have been obliterated and others damaged. This wind farm has been built within a rich archaeological landscape whose integrity has inevitably been compromised.

In recent months there has been much discussion in the press regarding the impact of wind farm developments on the setting of monuments. Most recently Simon Thurley (Chief Executive, English Heritage) stated that the biggest challenge is “to find ways to stop the erection of wind farms and other eyesores from obscuring historic buildings and monuments”. This comment emphasises the difficulties in establishing ground rules for setting. The developers heritage consultants at Mynydd y Betws believed that the setting of a cairn would not be significantly affected beyond 10 – 15 metres, whilst Cadw believe that the setting of an historic garden will be affected by turbines over 2km away and at Thackson’s Well the planners agreed that proposed turbines 11km from the Grade I listed house would have an unacceptable impact on the setting.

Clearly it is going to be difficult to find a single answer. Perhaps the setting is not related to the distance but rather to the type of site affected. A Grade I building might perhaps require a bigger buffer zone than say a cairn or stone circle. These are discussions that we probably should already have resolved since Mynydd y Betws clearly demonstrates what will happen if we do not grasp this nettle firmly.

Finally, a question: does the Bancbryn cairn cemetery within the Mynydd y Betws wind farm have the dubious honour of being the closest scheduled monument to a turbine? The monument is 72m from the 110m high turbine and is certainly within the “impact zone” should the worst happen. Do you know of any other scheduled monuments that are closer?

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For all previous and subsequent articles put Mynydd Y Betws in our Search Box.

See also this website and Facebook Group

As expected the Government seems to be finally grasping the nettle over wind farms and admitting a lot of the onshore ones have been a mistake.  Two weeks ago the Scottish Conservative spokesman had said: “We appreciate that wind farms have a place, but the fact there are seven wind farm applications a day in Scotland proves this is a gravy train threatening to career out of control” and last week Energy Minister Greg Barker was even clearer:

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The rush to develop on-shore wind farms is “over”
“They have turned public opinion against renewable energy”.
“We put certain projects in the wrong place.”
“We are very clear about the need to limit the impact on the countryside and landscape.”
Future wind farms will be developed off-shore.

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It’s good news that the Government is indicating that the era of erecting onshore wind farms at almost any environmental or cultural cost is over. However, those landscapes and communities and heritage sites that have been left afflicted in the past few years can count themselves very unlucky for if the same developments that have blighted them were proposed today it seems they wouldn’t now be allowed. It seems likely that many of the onshore wind turbines that remain in beautiful or auspicious locations will now be seen by posterity as massive “mistake markers”.

Trust me, I'm a developer!

Trust me, I’m a developer!

Oswestry is turning into a fantasy world. Eddie Bowen, from Bowen Son and Watson, one of the development agents, has said:

There is a golden opportunity here. At the moment nobody knows what will happen from a farming point of view, but once this is done that is it. There would be a public open space around it [the hillfort] and that will secure it for the future.”

In case you don’t quite take it in, he is saying that building houses round the hill fort will provide a protective ring within which no-one will build houses! Seasoned observers of developerspeak are saying they haven’t heard such stuff since the days when those masters of the dark art, Tarmac PLC, used to claim that opencast mining round the Thornborough Henges would be good for them!

Not that anyone should be surprised by tricky words at Oswestry. It was there that the Reverend Spooner was educated. They say he once said “You have hissed all my mystery lectures”. Maybe the people of Oswestry should say to Eddie: “We ciss on your ponservation claims….”

Yes, you heard it right. Central Searchers run detecting rallies that are arguably the most irresponsible detecting events in the universe. How can we say that? Well, for a start, Britain is one of very few places in the universe where such events are legal so that cuts the field down a lot. Then there’s their notorious crook-helping rule that says farmers get nothing that’s worth less than £2,000 as secretly judged by the detectorist. But third and worst is the fact they hold rallies wherever they can, irrespective of whether they should.

The latest (at Pertenhall) was to be on top of many recent archaeological evaluation trenches. Archaeologists were outraged and it was prevented fortunately but they have reacted not with shame or an apology but a bellicose announcement that future venues will be kept secret to avoid “trouble-making“ – i.e. to avoid archaeologists being able to ask farmers to say no to rallies on vulnerable archaeology.

Wrongdoing by detectorists is always portrayed as confined to “a tiny minority” but the fact Central Searchers rallies are constantly promoted and praised (to the skies!) in the hobby press and always attract hundreds of eager customers with neither the wit nor decency to stay away makes total nonsense of the claim. Who can deny that large-scale wrong-doing of this sort ought to be publicly exposed and stopped? No-one. Yet officialdom is silent.

Selfish? Stupid? Step this way...

Selfish? Stupid? Step this way…

Update 28 October 2013

  • Forgot to say: 500 detectorists – ( 12.5% of all detectorists! ) – attended Central Searchers’ Summer Rally this year.
  • A County Archaeologist is leaving after 28 years and isn’t being replaced. But one detectorist has just said: “I hope she ends up working on the streets….detectorist’s across the Country will raise a glass and rejoice at her departure” . Another has said: Good riddance! Another one bites the dust….. They never learn. All those years spent bitching about detectorists amounts to her demise….but detecting moves on!”

Is it unreasonable to hope that archaeologists and politicians (and decent thoughtful detectorists!) will drop the ubiquitous “tiny minority” phrase from all their comments on metal detecting? It’s clearly inappropriate, the minority is not tiny and the misdescription has helped sustain a great deal of wrongdoing and cultural loss for far too long.

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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Back in January of this year, I was witness to unthinking desecration by a family group at Men an Tol. I recently returned to the scene, or rather, I attempted to return to the scene. On this occasion, my path was blocked by cows grazing on the approaches to the monument. The surface damage done by the grazing cattle was much worse than that caused by the family earlier in the year.

Indeed, I’m not alone in thinking that the damage caused could have easily been avoided, were it not for poor advice from certain government departments, coupled with the greed of the owners on whose land the monument lies.  Save Penwith Moors, (SPM) a local pressure group acting to campaign lawfully for the removal of all new stock proofing (fencing, gates and cattle grids) from a few selected areas of open access moorland popular for local and tourist recreation, have been keeping a daily eye on the situation at Men an Tol, and have recently issued the following Open Letter to English Heritage, Natural England, Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network (CASPN), as well as the local MP for the area:

“More potential trouble at Men-an-Tol!

As at Tregeseal Circle the cattle are gathering around the stones and using the two uprights as rubbing posts as well as covering the area with heaps of dung and ruining the public right of way – virtually impassable down towards the stream – by churning it up.

This is not an isolated out of the way site – and that would be no excuse anyway – but, probably, the most popular frequented ancient monument in the Peninsula and an iconic part of Cornish Heritage. It is high time remedial action was taken after this warning message – preferably by removing grazing stock from this Croft and undertaking manual maintenance.”

The Save Penwith Moors campaign web site and Facebook page includes photographic and video evidence of the damage being caused by the ill-conceived grazing policies as instigated by Natural England and (unjustifiably) supported by English Heritage who are ultimately legally responsible for the protection of the Scheduled Ancient Monument.  We would urge all our readers to visit the SPM pages and give them every support possible in their campaign against the current grazing policies.

They don’t get a penny in rewards or much mention in telly programmes yet they queue up all over the country to do their bit. All they seem to want is to do Archaeology right, just because it’s there. We mean of course the amateurs, the foot-soldiers of archaeology who are desperate to learn and who clamour for a role, no matter how humble in exchange for – well, absolutely nothing.

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This week there has been some good news for them. The Heritage Lottery Fund has just awarded the CBA  £500,000 to provide a further 24 Community Archaeology Training Placements, thus equipping would-be community archaeologists with the skills to work with voluntary groups and hence have a big impact on the thousands of amateurs involved in archaeology. (More details about the scheme and a video of it in action here).

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CBA Director Mike Heyworth explained how it will have a good effect and will facilitate a new initiative relating to an issue of particular current relevance – getting young people interested in Archaeology: “This week’s decision means we are now able to more than double the number of bursary placements for the last two years of the project and also to introduce a youth-focus to the project in the additional bursaries we can now offer.”

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Voluntees at Kiddeminste: "Hurrah for the givers!"  (Maybe the CBA would care to pitch that title to ITV, to balance things up a bit?!)

Volunteers at Kidderminster: “Hurrah for the givers!” (Maybe the CBA would care to pitch that title to ITV ?!)

standing

PRESS RELEASE – THE SUSTAINABLE TRUST CARWYNNEN QUOIT

A LEG UP FOR THE GIANTS QUOIT!

Despite appalling weather, our relentless volunteer diggers arrived on Monday morning to start working the site at Carwynnen Quoit, prior to the restoration of the first stone. An eleven day community dig will expose the socket for the stone, and further investigate the area to the rear of the monument. A new trench is being opened further up the field. The excavation will be carried out in the same manner as the autumn 2012 dig, with a small Historic Environment team leading the volunteer team.

We have an official open day on Sunday 27th October, between 10.30 and 4pm where you can engage in a free guided tour, and see an exhibition of the work so far. There will be demonstrations of ancient technology and experimental archaeology with Sally Herriett. She looks forward to introducing you to her unusual world, and sharing her passion for all things Prehistoric, presenting artifacts and demonstrating Flint Knapping. At 2pm she will be describing her work especially for children.

We are trying to preserve the grass in the field for as long as possible, so it would be appreciated if you would park in the campsite next door, or walk over from Treslothan Church (15 mins). If you remember Carwynnen Quoit before or after it fell in 1966, come and share your memories with us. The film on our giantsquoit.org homepage made use of some recordings we made during the last phase of the project. A second film is in production and we welcome your contribution to our collection of local memories. On 31st, at around 10.30am, at Samhain or All Hallows Eve, we intend to restore the first upright stone and you are welcome to come and watch.  In Spring we will continue the restoration. A time capsule will be buried. If you have any suggestions for its contents, let us know!

Pip Richards –  pip.sustrust@gmail.com

At Oswestry Guildhall a few days ago plans for the proposed housing development near the hill fort were displayed. A Mr Roberts (who is working on some of the plans) said “It’s been a useful day. From our point of view it was about providing information to the various people who weren’t previously party to some of the plans….. I think a number of people in the town have the idea that the hillfort is being developed, but it’s not – it’s land near the foot of the hillfort, not the hillfort itself.”

But hang on, who actually thought that? Don’t the vast majority of Oswestry people know very well the hill fort can’t be built on and that it’s the setting that’s being targeted? It’s not a case of people misunderstanding a harmless proposal. It’s a case of people understanding a damaging one all too well.

Even I knew !

Even I knew !

The police recently made a plea for an Oswestry chip shop to employ bouncers to keep troublemakers at bay.  Maybe there’s a case for the Council to employ bouncers round the hill fort to keep developers at bay. They could do a lot more damage than a few  late-night drunks…..

Os28

National Trust chairman Sir Simon Jenkins recently explained with great eloquence why he fears for the future of our stunning scenery. We thought it worth highlighting here because so often encroachment into the Green Belt also involves encroachment into the settings of monuments. Damage to settings tends to attract less public indignation than damage to scenery but if it can be resisted at the same time that’s fine.

West Shopshie fom Tittestone Clee

West Shropshire from Titterstone Clee         (C) Heritage Journal

“From the Iron Age fort at the south end of the Malvern Hills is a view of incomparable beauty. West lies the Severn vale towards Evesham, with the Cotswolds stretched across the horizon. East is the soft green of the Wye Valley, and south the dark outline of the Forest of Dean. Here, Elgar sought inspiration for marches of pomp and circumstance. Here is the landscape that Anglo-Indians are said to have recalled most often when dreaming of England.

To a modern government minister, such talk must seem sentimental tosh. The Severn Valley is an ideal growth zone, sprawling round the M5 corridor northwards from Gloucester to the Midlands, perfect for warehouse estates and out-of-town housing units. Already, plastic polytunnels are spreading up the Wye Valley, while the hills of the Welsh border are sprouting wind turbine applications. This is the new “coalition landscape”, and it has nothing to do with Elgar.

I have been to every corner of industrial England and there is no shortage of places on which to build. Thousands of acres of post-industrial sites and infill land, in the South as well as the North, are lying idle. They offer a tremendous challenge to English planning. But location, setting and some thought for beauty are all. The Government’s policy of an ubiquitous “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, defined merely as profitable, is the most philistine concept in planning history”.

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