88% of people oppose harming the hillfort. No surprise there then! But paradoxically the poll may bring comfort to those who do want to harm it for it implies that the purpose of building houses there is to tackle the housing shortage. It isn’t. It’s a lie. It’s about some people wanting to be made very rich and a lot of others wanting to help them, for reasons unknown. It’s a fact, there are loads of other sites in and around Oswestry and 40,000 acres of open land within ten miles, all of which would be less damaging to develop. (Oh, and the national and local housing shortage is of starter homes. The ones planned for Oswestry Hillfort’s setting will be mainly expensive executive units!).
So a better poll question would be: “Is the behaviour of Shropshire Council a disgrace? YES/NO.” The fact their old Leader departed under a cloud which they blatantly tried to minimise was merely one of many previous actions lending them a wild west image and the new Leader lost no time in disgracing them further – twice. He told the world “No-one in this council wants to do anything that is detrimental to the hillfort” just before the whole Council voted to do exactly that! He also excused them with the words “The inspector has concluded that the Shropshire Site Allocations and Management of Development Plan is sound, legally compliant”, which implies it’s OK because, like metal detectorists bleat when they target unprotected archaeology, “it’s legal, innit?” If they get their way that’s how they’ll go down in history – people saying it’s legal in order to divert from the fact it is also absolutely, avoidably, definitely, categorically, politically, morally wrong!
Incidentally here’s something else the Shropshire Star could ask its readers to consider. A couple of years ago the Chairman of the National Trust wrote: “Town-and-country planning has been one of the great achievements of 20th-century Britain. It has guarded some80 per cent of the land area as rural in one of the most densely populated yet generously housed countries in Europe.” ….. however: “the presumption in favour of sustainable development, defined merely as profitable, is the most philistine concept in planning history”. What does that say about Shropshire Council, which has applied that presumption more insistently and obnoxiously than any other Council in Britain?
But let’s not forget the role of Historic England. They’ve been indispensable to Operation Screw the Fort for Cash. Why does that seem so shocking? Probably because they’re a national organisation, clear of local politics (though not of cowardice in the face of the enemies of heritage some say!) To be fair to them, they defended themselves last November: “We recognise that this is a sensitive location and we still have concerns about design and numbers of houses”. Hmmm, super, still have concerns about the design and numbers of houses do you? But why don’t you tell the ladies and gentlemen of the Public what the Inspector said: “Notwithstanding the level of opposition to the inclusion of site OSW004, Historic England has not maintained an objection, a consideration that I afford considerable weight.” So your failure to object seems to have directly helped stuff the hillfort, and the only person on Earth who knows if that’s true says yes it is, which leaves any denial or defence by you looking simply undignified.
Worse, by saying you have misgivings about size and layout you have handed the damagers a golden ticket. They can simply agree to change the specifications, secure in the knowledge they then will get your approval! So it’s no good you trying to calm the anger by suggesting it’s not a “done deal” yet. You probably had it in your power to ensure there was no deal, and didn’t, and now you’re left with only the chance to nitpick about the number of bedrooms.
So Shropshire has been ill-served, not just by the odious behaviour of its Council but also by England’s Historic Environment “champion”. There’s an excellent satirical piece in “The Pipeline” this week which isn’t a million miles from reality: “Meanwhile a spokesperson for the senior management of Historic England explained that, while the organisation had some reservations about demonic machines from the deepest circle of hell defining Government planning policy, it stood by the conclusion of its Historic Environment Impact Assessment that any damage to the historic environment done by Satan and all his Fiends was limited and was outweighed by the benefits.”