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by Dr George Nash

In terms of setting, Old Oswestry Hillfort has commanding views across the four compass points and clearly interacts with Wat’s Dyke (north and south), Oswestry’s post-medieval town-form (south), the parkland and garden landscapes of Brogyntyn (west), the Park Hall and Old Port Farm complexes (east) and the Wrekin (south-east). One would think that under current English Heritage guidance, the various vistas this impressive scheduled monument commands would be safe for us and future generations. However, for reasons unbeknown to myself and other academics, English Heritage have gone against their own guidance on setting (see free download documents: The Settings of Heritage Assets [October 2011] and Seeing the History in the View [May 2011, with revisions June 2012]. I, along with many people in and around Oswestry are perplexed by the double standards that appear to be in operation.

Here is what they say in Seeing the History in the View (2011 [revised 2012]):

“Views play an important part in shaping our appreciation and understanding of England’s historic environment, whether in towns and cities or in the countryside. Some of those views were deliberately designed to be seen as a unity – for example Greenwich Palace seen from the River Thames, or the many facets of Stowe Park in Buckinghamshire. Much more commonly, a significant view is a historical composite, the cumulative result of a long process of development. The existence of such views, often containing well-known landmarks and cherished landscapes, enriches our daily life, attracts visitors and helps our communities prosper.

……Historically important views are among the many sensitive issues that local planning authorities have to consider, and this account of English Heritage’s method of assessment is intended to help clarify this heritage aspect of the planning process, and promote national consistency. It should be especially useful to those commissioning and carrying out area-based studies as advocated by English Heritage and CABE in their joint Guidance on Tall Buildings (2007).

English Heritage will apply this method to its own decisions in relation to developments affecting views, and we believe that planning authorities and other interested parties will benefit by adopting the same approach”.

Chris Smith National Planning Director | English Heritage, May 2011
Extract from Seeing History……(free download document published by English Heritage in 2012)

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Dr George Nash is an Archaeologist & specialist in Prehistoric and Contemporary art. He is Associate Professor and Senior Researcher at the Faculty of Architecture, Spiru Haret University, Bucharest, Romania and at the Centro de Geociências, Museu de Arte Pré-Histórica de Mação, Portugal.

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