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“People come at the wrong time of year to look in the wrong direction at the marvellous sight of the sun appearing between two stones one of which isn’t there and some get drunk and some get high and hundreds drop litter (and others pick it up to conceal the evidence of mass disrespect) and hundreds stand on prostrate stones, which is illegal, but the authorities do nothing at the time and say nothing afterwards nor about the fact they know the gathering would be more authentic, spectacular, enjoyable, cheaper and respectful if it took place outside the circle. Meanwhile, the millions of stakeholders who don’t go remain perplexed why guardians don’t guard and why exhibitionists are given such license to act in a way that is entirely unconnected with the past! It’s ironic, isn’t it. They’ll roll over and give the solstice attendees what they want but do everything they can to oppose the wishes of the good people of Oswestry!”
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);
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?
We have decided to offer this attractive trophy on a quarterly basis to individuals or organisations who have caused significant avoidable harm to heritage. Readers are welcome to provide future nominations but this month the choice almost makes itself: ….
Well done boys
Update 18 June
Please note, several people have pointed out that the name of the award could cause confusion with the long-established and admirable Ig Nobel Prizes for Science so in future our award will have a new name (to be announced – suggestions welcome!)
Today we thought we’d re-publish an article from a while back. It illustrates how vital it is to continue to fight against housing within the hillfort’s setting – and to see some of the claims that are about to be made for what they are – meaningless smokescreens to aid someone to make loads of money at the expense of everyone else’s heritage. .
“If I eat your toes your legs will be safe!”
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!
There is NO golden opportunity here, no chance to establish a sacrosanct buffer zone, no-one can say another assault won’t ever be mounted by someone that wants to make money. If you hear it said in the next few weeks or months (and we suspect you will) it won’t make it the truth. 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….”
The development is to go ahead. You can take part in a Consultation – but only about the “modifications” suggested by the Inspector, not about the development itself. The document is at pains to make that extremely clear:
“Please note that the Inspector is only inviting comments on the suggested Main Modifications. Comments that do not relate to a suggested Main Modification will not be considered.”
To give you an idea how hard the door has been slammed and how ineffectual and almost insulting are the modifications, here are some of them……
Development should demonstrate appropriate regard to the significance and setting of the Old Oswestry Hill Fort……
Full archaeological assessment will be required to enhance the understanding and interpretation of the significance of the Hillfort and its wider setting …….
Ensuring long distance views to and from the Hillfort within its wider setting are conserved ……..
Development should be designed to allow views and glimpses of the Hillfort from within the site …….
The layout of development ……will be designed to minimise the landscape impact ……..