Seriously, you couldn’t! Historic England has just issued an advice note “to support those involved in the Local Plan site allocation process in implementing historic environment legislation“. Bearing in mind the disastrous fruits of the Local Plan allocation process adjacent to what English Heritage says is “one of the greatest archaeological monuments of the nation” it’s well worth examining the advice.

You may recall English Heritage/Heritage England have consistently expressed concern about the proposed development but have consistently sought to find ways to mitigate its effect not to actually oppose it. You may also care to note that a spokesperson for Shropshire Council has just provided The Observer with this amazing statement: The sensitivity of the Old Oswestry Hill Fort and its setting have been recognised by Shropshire council throughout its local plan-making process, which started in 2010. However, Shropshire council does not accept that proposed development would result in substantial harm to the significance of the hill fort.”

Bearing that in mind, please read Historic England’s advice. Take this section for instance…..

• The Local Plan should set out a positive strategyfor the conservation and enjoyment of the historic environment, in which the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets should be considered (NPPF paragraph 126); the associated statutory duty regarding the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of a conservation area must be considered in this regard (S72, Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990);

• Development will be expected to avoid or minimise conflict between any heritage asset’s conservation and any aspect of the proposal (NPPF paragraph 129);
• Great weight should be given to an asset’s conservation and the more important the asset, the greater the weight to the asset’s conservation there should be (NPPF paragraph 132);
• Harm should always be avoided in the first instance. Only where this is not possible should mitigation be considered (NPPF paragraph 152). Any harm and mitigation proposals need to be fully justified and evidenced to ensure they will be successful in reducing harm.
• The Local Plan should set out a positive strategy for the conservation and enjoyment of the historic environment, in which the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets should be considered (NPPF paragraph 126); the associated statutory duty regarding the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of a conservation area must be considered in this regard (S72, Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990);
• Development will be expected to avoid or minimise conflict between any heritage asset’s conservation and any aspect of the proposal (NPPF para graph 129);
• Great weight should be given to an asset’s conservation and the more important the asset, the greater the weight to the asset’s conservation there should be (NPPF paragraph 132);
• Harm should always be avoided in the first instance. Only where this is not possible should mitigation be considered (NPPF paragraph 152). Any harm and mitigation proposals need to be fully justified and evidenced to ensure they will be successful in reducing harm.

Which bit of that lot is NOT breached by building an estate in the hillfort’s setting? It seems to us that either English Heritage or Heritage England or Shropshire Council or all of them aren’t following that advice. Words are cheap, aren’t they?