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News release from Hands off Old Oswestry Hillfort:
Post-election announcement on hillfort housing could be on the cards
Officials may be keeping a lid on the outcome of controversial proposals for housing close to Old Oswestry hillfort in Shropshire until after the election, say campaigners.
The speculation follows further delays to the expected publication of Inspector Claire Sherratt’s findings on SAMDEV, Shropshire Council’s development blueprint to 2026. The plan includes a fiercely opposed bid to extend Oswestry’s urban edge into the hillfort’s Iron Age landscape for the construction of a large housing estate.
Campaign group, HOOOH (Hands off Old Oswestry Hillfort), was originally told that the modified plan would appear by around the middle of February for final consultation. But publication continues to be delayed, with administrators now saying it won’t be until ‘at least the end of April’.
John Waine of HOOOH said: “It’s fair to say that we are very disappointed with the delays in the modified SAMDev plan. It seems that publication may not come through until after the election and people will make up their own minds as to whether this move is politically-motivated or not.”
He added: “From the point of view of HOOOH’s campaign, now coming up to two years, we believe that the case for removal of OSW004 is overwhelming, and we have provided clear evidence to that conclusion with growing support from all quarters.”
Thousands of people, including 8,000+ petition signatories, have voiced their opposition to the hillfort estate during several stages of public consultation across three years. HOOOH believes the protracted delay in a decision on the bitterly contested development is stretching public faith in localism to the very limit. Campaigners say it would be a highly cynical move to postpone what is a politically incendiary planning judgment into post-election safety.
Campaigner Neil Phillips said: “Shropshire Council has refused to take notice of the overwhelming consensus against this very short-sighted development. Not only will it be extremely damaging to the hillfort’s heritage significance, it will also erode its tourism value which creates jobs and brings spend to the County.”
He added: “If we think our voice is not being heard in public consultation, we can always use our 2015 election vote on candidates that can demonstrate they are genuine and active heritage champions.”
Mr Waine said: “Going forward, it is clear that Old Oswestry hillfort is a precious heritage asset of national and international significance, and as such, requires protection from some form of heritage greenbelt. The well-received BBC Radio 4 programme, ‘Making History’, which was partly recorded on the hillfort, is recognition of the fact that it has a worldwide audience keen to know more.
“Whatever the outcome, the campaign will continue to work hard to protect, promote and celebrate the ‘Stonehenge of the Iron Age’ and the ancient heart of Oswestry for the town, the county and the country as a whole.”
Speaking on the ‘Making History’ programme, the esteemed archaeology academic and author, Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, and MP Tim Loughton MP called for the wider protection of heritage landscape.
Professor Cunliffe is among 12 eminent academics who have signed an open letter to Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, and Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, objecting to OSW004. In it they write: “If the bar for acceptable development under the NPPF does not protect the setting of even our most significant heritage sites, then we set a potentially calamitous precedent for the greater part of the nation’s historic environment.”
As well as thousands of objectors via petition and on social media, the hillfort housing bid is opposed by numerous stakeholders, heritage and environmental groups. They include Oswestry Town Council, Selattyn & Gobowen Parish Council, RESCUE (The British Archaeological Trust), Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), The Prehistoric Society, The Society of Antiquaries of London, Oswestry & Border History & Archaeology Group, Shropshire Wildlife Trust, Heritage Action (Heritage Journal), and Dr Mike Heyworth MBE, director of The Council for British Archaeology (CBA).
More info from Kate Clarke on 01691 652918 or 07835 924069 or John Waine on 07972 113619,
Open letter from senior British academics: http://www.britac.ac.uk/news/news.cfm/newsid/1209
So where HAVE they gone? Speculation has been rife since they were spirited away “for servicing” [what, all of them?] and possible “design improvements” and English Heritage announced, unhelpfully, that “they have all gone for the moment. They went about a week ago. We do not know when they will be back”. One bystander suggested they were going to be converted into luxury holiday cottages for Druids. Someone else thinks they are going to be tipped up to create a new and lucrative attraction to be called Trainhenge.
Me, I have another theory. It’s about the fact that down in Cornwall, as Sandy Gerrard has explained, Historic England have hit on a moneymaking wheeze. They have said yes to planning permission saying that one reason is that it will result in finance to benefit the monument that is being damaged. Not a bribe you understand, just basing a decision on monetary benefits. As Sandy says, once housing developers get to hear that Historic England will support the destruction of the historic environment in return for a promise to care for what remains, it will be open season on our heritage.
So maybe that’s where the land trains have gone …. Historic England have got ’em, have given them a new paint job and are going to drive them up and down the country bringing the good news to developers?
Over the years the Heritage Journal has highlighted various issues regarding the protection of archaeology in Wales. It now seems that the Welsh Assembly Government agree with most of our concerns and have acknowledged problems with the existing system.
A Heritage Bill designed to tackle these problems is to be introduced in late Spring 2015 and amongst the proposed changes is the idea of making the designation process “more open and transparent by introducing formal consultation with owners and establishing mechanisms to review decisions”. Currently the process sometimes gives outsiders the impression that it is very secretive, inconsistent and often ill-informed. The move to a more transparent system should be welcomed by everyone with an interest in protecting Welsh heritage. Clearly as well as ensuring the creation of a designation system that works it is crucial that it is funded adequately. Providing that the Welsh Assembly can deliver on their promises to change the system and ensure that sufficient resources are made available Welsh heritage may have a better future.
Every year large numbers of scheduled ancient monuments are damaged. Cadw’s own figures (which are probably very conservative) indicate that between 2006 and 2012 there were 119 cases of unlawful damage to scheduled ancient monuments in Wales. Furthermore Cadw acknowledge that there has been only one successful prosecution under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 in the last 25 years. There is clearly a very large problem here and it is therefore somewhat disappointing that Cadw initially overlooked it. It is tempting to think that the recent case of damage to a length of Offa’s Dyke jolted them into making a late change to the proposed Heritage Bill. Hopefully their proposed remedy will work and ensure that the really important archaeological sites in Wales are finally offered some degree of protection.
A scheduled farmstead at Mynydd y Betws severely damaged in 2012 did not even appear on Cadw’s list of damaged sites. The site remains on the schedule but no remedial works have been carried out to protect the battered vestiges. Let’s hope the new proposed heritage protection system serves us better than the current one.
You’d think Stonehenge had troubles enough, what with proper protection being ditched in favour of proper vote catching and the National Trust inexplicably going along with it. So what it doesn’t need is loads of American detectorists piling in to support the short tunnel. (Nor, truth to tell, does the Trust, bearing in mind the ramshackle case they are trying to maintain and the fact they don’t allow metal detectorists onto any of their land!) Yet supporting the short tunnel is exactly what a British detectorist is urging American colleagues to do:
“May I through the comments section ask that support be given to the UK’s National Trust who favour the ‘short tunnel’ option to protect Stonehenge from traffic. We need to counter the propaganda nonsense spouted by Heritage Harry, aka, Nigel Swift of Heritage Action who is desperate to see the ‘short tunnel’ option binned. Write to:- email@example.com . I already have. Please support the ‘short tunnel’ option.”
If, on the other hand, you aren’t an American detectorist and you oppose new damage at Stonehenge, please sign the petition. Plus, if you’re an NT Member please write to them saying: “I see you are submitting the short tunnel to a Members’ vote. I vote NO.”