You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Hill forts’ category.

The latest Press Release from the Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort campaigners:

– Historic England deals late blow to community’s 8-year fight to save the setting of one of Britain’s outstanding Iron Age hillforts from housing development –

Campaigners are up in arms at news that Historic England has relaxed its concerns over development in the historic landscape of Old Oswestry hillfort on the Shropshire/Wales border.

Illustration (c) John Swogger ‘With Friends Like These’

The government’s statutory heritage consultee is currently advising on a planning application by Galliers Homes for 91 houses in the near setting of the 3,000-year-old Iron Age monument.

The outcry comes as Historic England’s representation appeared on Shropshire Council’s planning portal just hours before the close of public consultation (on April 21). The current application is the third set of plans in 12 months to be submitted by Berrys, the planning agent, prompting floods of objections each time.

“Historic England’s response raises far more questions than it answers,” said campaign group, HOOOH, which has produced a 10-page document criticising the content. “They are sanctioning proposals that do not comply with their own criteria and guidance. This includes conditions in a Statement of Common Ground signed with Shropshire Council in 2014 that allowed this highly controversial site to be adopted in Shropshire’s SAMDev local plan.”

Campaigners say the heritage body is backing down on key requirements, including a northern development limit to ensure houses do not extend beyond the line of an adjacent factory.

HOOOH said: “We seek proper clarification from Historic England as to why they are not keeping to these criteria. The northern limit they stipulated for built development is a clearly defined threshold, not something to negotiate with the applicant on the basis that proposals achieve partial compliance.”

The group’s exposé also criticises a lack of rigour and transparency over archaeological evidence, heritage impact assessments and photomontages submitted by the developer.

HOOOH says that Historic England’s representation is a complete abdication of duty, summed up in the heritage body’s comment: ‘This latest proposal is an improvement on previous ones, partly because it more fully complies with the Statement of Common Ground.’ Campaigners are also concerned that pressure may have been put on Shropshire Council’s archaeology and conservation team, whose representation, published a week after the consultation deadline, essentially defers to Historic England’s views.

“This is just not good enough,” HOOOH said. “Historic England, whose remit is to safeguard our shared national heritage, has a duty to ensure that any proposal wholly complies with the agreed conditions. They should be far more rigorous: a unique hillfort and archaeological landscape are at stake here.

Campaigners say they are shocked that Historic England has failed to object to proposals that would constitute substantial harm to a scheduled monument from development within its setting, as defined in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

“This has removed the main obstacle to planners approving the application, as it would be very difficult for Shropshire Council to justify approval against Historic England’s objection,” HOOOH said. “It is now up to our elected representatives on Shropshire Council’s planning committee to follow the democratic wish and refuse permission.”

Campaigners continued: ”Historic England has retreated from having serious concerns over the heritage impacts of the proposed development and is now parroting the developer’s statement about distances between the hillfort and proposed development, as if these are acceptable boundaries. They offer no explanation as to why these distances, which form no part of the Statement of Common Ground, are significant and carry weight for accepting development.

“This goes against Historic England’s own advice, principles and spirit of heritage protection regarding the setting of heritage assets, in particular those classified as designated heritage assets. It also goes against the principles for evaluating harm to heritage assets and their setting within the NPPF.

“Apart from the immediate damaging consequences for Old Oswestry, an exceptional type site for Iron Age understanding, this could set a very dangerous planning precedent for developers to ravage heritage landscapes integral to the story and experience of ancient monuments across England.”

HOOOH added: “Can we actually rely on Historic England to apply their own guidance on setting, which is a lifeline in protecting our fragile heritage? Throughout our campaign, HOOOH has witnessed double standards based on a weakened planning process that promises, but has scant regard for, public consultation and localism. It also appears to have allowed a statutory consultee to be manipulated during private meetings and by developer-led literature, which plays down the value of the heritage, that is, our heritage!”

Attention

Old Oswestry’s plight has attracted attention from around the world, prompting a 12,000-signature petition and support from national heritage organisations and leading academics including Michael Wood, Alice Roberts, Mary Beard, Dan Snow and Tom Holland.

The 3,000-year-old hillfort is widely referred to as ‘The Stonehenge of the Iron Age’ for its unique design and pivotal importance together with its hinterland landscape for the understanding of Iron Age society.

HOOOH said: “The local community, which has fought so long and passionately to protect Old Oswestry, is distraught that its hillfort could be both the victim of and a precedent for a new age of legalised heritage vandalism. We have consistently pointed out how Caerau hillfort in South Wales has been surrounded by urban housing. We are desperate that the relevant authorities wake up to the real dangers that this application near Old Oswestry would bring to the setting of the scheduled monument.

“Historic England has let us down. During the long eight years of this campaign, we put our trust in them as our heritage protectors, even when at times their choices went against our instincts. Now, at the eleventh hour, we feel angry that they have not stood their ground as set out in their agreement with Shropshire Council that should only permit development if it meets all criteria. Instead, they have engaged in closed-door negotiations with the developer and Shropshire Council and, ultimately, their decisions could be the thin end of the wedge to the gradual destruction of Old Oswestry’s setting from long-term town expansion.”

The group added: “The hillfort land allocation was approved in SAMDev back in 2014 under the pressure of meeting over-ambitious housing targets and 5-year housing land supply and because, we were told, there were no other viable locations.

“Five years on, the planning imperative for this most unpopular of development sites has been substantially weakened. The County’s 5-year housing land supply is in surplus and housing numbers for Oswestry are being majorly scaled back in the local plan review to 2036, while many potential new sites have come forward including a project to unlock land for around 1000 homes.”

HOOOH says that local housing delivery has recently been boosted after the green light was given to 600 homes on the Oswestry Eastern Sustainable Urban Extension (SUE). The group also points out that the sustainability criteria supporting the allocation of OSW004 in 2014 have been seriously undermined by a change in legal status of the Cambrian Line to an operating railway, effectively preventing access across and along the track for pedestrian and cycle access.

According to Shropshire Council’s planning portal, objections to the hillfort site (as of 1 May 2020) have reached over 250. The planning application can be viewed by searching the reference 20/01033/EIA at: https://pa.shropshire.gov.uk/online-applications/

The public can still submit comments via email to: planning.northern@shropshire.gov.uk

HOOOH’s rebuttal can be found at www.oldowestryhillfort.co.uk


There is also an excellent analysis of the Historic England approval on the Pipeline web site.

The renowned academic, Professor Dame Mary Beard, has added her voice to nationwide concerns over major development in Old Oswestry hillfort’s historical setting.

The Much Wenlock born classics professor, writer and TV presenter is among numerous celebrities who have been reacting on social media to Galliers Homes’ proposals for 91 houses as the consultation deadline approaches.

Others include the academic and TV personality, Professor Alice Roberts, Francis Pryor of Channel 4 Time Team fame, as well as John Challis, Boycie from Only Fools and Horses, and Viv and Ralf from Channel 4’s Gogglebox. The award-winning author and Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, also tweeted her support.

The social media activity saw a surge in objections, which Shropshire Council’s planning office confirmed caused temporary problems for some people submitting comments online, according to campaign group HOOOH.

Oswestry Town Council, Cambrian Heritage Railways and OBHAG (Oswestry & Border Archaeology & History Group) are among local stakeholders maintaining their opposition. Influential national heritage bodies have also objected, including the CBA (Council for British Archaeology), RESCUE (the British Archaeological Trust) and The Prehistoric Society.

Heritage experts insist that development will damage Old Oswestry’s landscape setting and harm its significance contrary to national planning rules. The proposals also contravene Shropshire Council’s local plan policy, with half of the development extending beyond Historic England’s stated northern limit.

In Professor Alice Roberts’ objection on Shropshire Council’s website, she states: “Old Oswestry Hillfort is one of the best preserved hill forts in Britain. The proposed plan exceeds existing limits to development, and fundamentally fails to respect both the national importance of this site and its importance to local people. The development would have an irreversible impact on this very important piece of our national heritage.”

A spokesperson for HOOOH said: “The Inspector’s criteria for rubberstamping this land allocation six years ago in Shropshire’s SAMDev plan have fundamentally changed. Oswestry’s targets for annual housing delivery are being scaled back, while changes concerning the legal status of the adjacent Cambrian line as an operating railway prevent the development from meeting key sustainability criteria on pedestrian and cycle access.

“New studies reaffirming the high value of the landscape around the hillfort north of Oswestry have seen Shropshire Council rule out any further allocations within this most sensitive of areas in their local plan review to 2036. The slim justification for housing that councillors and the Inspector were led to believe in 2014 no longer stands, and the site should simply not be developed.

“The masterplan for the current application entirely fails to meet Historic England’s requirements on the northern limit for building and acceptable design, and therefore Shropshire’s northern planning committee has compelling grounds to refuse permission.”

These are the third set of plans to be submitted by Galliers Homes within a year, prompting huge opposition each time. Objections on the planning portal (as of 19 April 2020) have reached almost 200, exceeding total objections to each of the previous and subsequently withdrawn submissions.

The 3,000-year-old hillfort is widely referred to as ‘The Stonehenge of the Iron Age’ for its unique design and pivotal importance together with its landscape for the understanding of Iron Age society.

The deadline for public comments is today (April 20). People can view the planning application and make representations by searching 20/01033/EIA via the link: https://pa.shropshire.gov.uk/online-applications/

HOOOH said: “If people experience problems registering and submitting comments on the planning portal, we recommend that they email them instead to:  planning.northern@shropshire.gov.uk.”

Further information on the 8-year planning wrangle over Old Oswestry’s setting and issues concerning development is available at www.oldowestryhillfort.co.uk

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the recent deadline for objections to the latest planning application at Oswestry Hillfort was delayed by 2 weeks. This expires next week, and the Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort (HOOOH) campaign have issued another press release, calling for one last push from objectors to help save the hillfort and its hinterland:

Campaigners make final stand as deadline looms to save hillfort’s landscape

Campaigners are urging people to unite one more time to protect Old Oswestry hillfort’s historic setting as an 8-year fight over development reaches a climax.

The call comes as campaign group HOOOH releases guidance on objecting to Galliers Homes’ latest planning application (20/01033/EIA) to build 91 houses in the hillfort’s near landscape. The final deadline for comments is Thursday 16 April. Full details of the planning application can be viewed on the Shropshire Council website at: www.shropshire.gov.uk/planning/

Among objections raised by HOOOH is that the proposal:

  • exceeds Historic England’s northern limit for development, with an estimated 40% of the built form lying outside it.
  • does not proportionately account for the very high national significance of Old Oswestry, with a resulting underestimation of the degree of harm from the OSW004 development on the hillfort’s setting and on its significance. The development proposal assesses that only ‘some’ harm will be caused, including harming 11% of views to/from the hillfort – this is ‘substantial’ given the hillfort’s national significance while representing only part of the harm/impacts. A photo montage visualising the development submitted by the developer suggests there will be a far more harmful visual impact.
  • fails to meet the SAMDev Oswestry S14.1a policy requirement for ‘pedestrian and cyclepath links to the former railway and a new footpath link between Whittington Road and Gobowen Road to improve access towards the Hill Fort’. The applicants concede in their planning statement that there are significant material issues, raised in a previous objection by the Cambrian Heritage Railways, in providing access to Gobowen Road across the railway line. Therefore, the proposal fails to deliver a key requirement of the S141a policy and fails to provide a major public benefit that gave weight to the case for the OSW004 allocation.

HOOOH goes on to say:

“Exactly eight years since major development by Old Oswestry was first proposed, we are asking for your support once more in opposing the latest bid to build houses in the hillfort’s immediate hinterland landscape.

“This third planning application, for 91 houses, is still as large and as damaging to the significance and experience of this outstanding Iron Age hillfort and its setting as previous ones.

“Be warned:  this is likely to be our final chance to stop this widely opposed and unnecessary development. It will have very tangible, negative and irreversible impacts on a nationally important heritage landscape – entirely senseless when Oswestry has alternative sites for housing.

“We know these are hugely challenging times; we are all very rightly prioritising the protection of our families and livelihoods through this devastating COVID-19 pandemic. As you stay safe and maximise time at home, we hope you will find time to stay with this fight in protecting this fascinating hillfort and special landscape, ‘The Stonehenge of the Iron Age’. These places of calm, escape and connection with our ancestors and nature will be all the more valuable to us when we come through this awful crisis.

“While we are striving to safeguard family and friends in our community from this dangerous virus, let’s make sure that ruinous planning under cover of a national crisis does not usher through development that we have passionately opposed for almost a decade.”

HOOOH’s guidance can be found at www.oldoswestryhillfort.co.uk

As mentioned recently, the latest deadline for objections to the most recent planning application at Old Oswestry Hillfort expires in two days time (April 2nd).

As of last night, less than 30 objections have been registered, but it’s hoped this will increase with last-minute submissions in the two days remaining.

If you’ve not yet submitted your own objection, the Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort (HOOH) group have put together a handy guide with suggestions for inclusion in your submission.

As one protester has stated:

Hillforts were built to stand guard and benevolently look out over their surrounding territory and protect it from intruders. They were also designed to be looked up to from that territory with reverence and respect. So it would be a great tragedy if you were to allow this very intrusive planning application as it is much too close and would seriously damage the historical and aesthetic setting of the hillfort.

As mentioned last Friday, the developers at Oswestry recently withdrew two plans to build upon the site.

But as anticipated, a further plan has been introduced in its place, as the latest newsletter from the Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort (HOOOH) campaign explains:

April 2nd is the deadline to object to yet another revised development bid in Old Oswestry’s near landscape.

This 3rd one (for 91 houses) is still as big and as damaging to the significance of this outstanding Iron Age hillfort and its setting as all previous ones. Be warned that the 18 or so days left to object are likely to be the very final countdown to have your say – this latest application comes with an actual deadline date for determination (July 1st).

The new planning application and object can be seen here.

Planning reference: 20/01033/EIA, Land To The North Of Whittington Road, Oswestry, Shropshire. Proposed residential development of 91 No. dwellings with associated access, public open space, electricity sub-station, drainage and landscaping.

Please be aware:

  • Fields shared with/next to the proposed land (OSW004) have been protected from housing development in the local plan review to 2036 due to their heritage importance as part of the hillfort’s setting. OSW004 would also meet these criteria if it had not been controversially allocated back in 2015 – it stands out like a sore thumb as an unnecessary and wrong place for housing.
  • Additional land has been identified for housing east of the bypass at Park Hall, keeping town growth away from the hillfort.
  • Oswestry has received funding to help unlock yet more land for over 1,150 new houses in the next 10 years.
  • Oswestry’s delivery target for housing is 90/year, including a proportion of affordable houses. Almost 100 affordable homes alone have been built in 2017/2018. There is no need to encroach into the hillfort’s landscape.

With only two weeks left for objections to be lodged, our supporters are urged to object via the http://www.shropshire.gov/planning website, as soon as possible. Further details of how best to formulate an objection will be released soon.


There have been various articles on internet web sites and social media over the last few days, explaining that the developers at Oswestry Hill Fort have effectively ‘walked away’ from the project and cancelled their plans for the development. However, looking deeper at the news, the threat remains. A point that has been clearly explained in the latest press release from the HOOOH ‘Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort’ campaign:

Campaigners braced for revised plans for hillfort estate after developer shelves latest scheme

Campaigners say they are ready to fight on as Galliers Homes withdraws plans for a 100-house estate in the near landscape of Old Oswestry hillfort ahead of submitting a new scheme.

Notice of withdrawal of two applications to develop the site in two phases appeared on Monday (March 9) on the Shropshire Council planning portal, but with no documents or correspondence to clarify the reasons. After campaign group, HOOOH, contacted the council for an explanation, planners have now revealed that a revised, single application to develop the site is in the pipeline.

A spokesperson for HOOOH said: “It is clear to us that the sustained opposition and compelling arguments from stakeholders, heritage organisations and members of the public are taking their toll on this highly controversial planning bid.

“Any revised application will have to go before the full planning committee where the serving council members must reflect the will of their electorate, which is to refuse the application.

“Our campaign has always been about the allocation of housing in line with the community’s wishes and the protection of nationally important heritage, principles that go to the heart of local planning and public consultation.

“Residents and stakeholders have consistently shown that they value the preservation of the hillfort’s setting and unspoilt landscape north of the town.  Oswestry Civic Society has gone as far as identifying alternative land for housing east of the town in its Oswestry 2050 vision which Shropshire planners have partially taken on board.”

Despite fierce opposition, land south-east of the hillfort (known as OSW004) was allocated for housing in Shropshire’s SAMDev local plan in 2015. However, subsequent targets for housing delivery in Oswestry have been revised down in Shropshire’s current plan review to 2036, while a surplus of sites for town growth have come forward including at Park Hall east of the bypass. In addition, fields surrounding the hillfort and adjoining OSW004 have been assessed and ruled out for housing allocation until at least 2037 following discussions between HOOOH and Shropshire Council.

“The OSW004 allocation now conflicts even more with Shropshire’s latest landscape assessments and development exclusions around the hillfort, as well as consensus on the direction of town growth,” said HOOOH.

“We urge stakeholders and supporters to maintain their objections against any further urbanisation of this iconic hillfort and Iron Age landscape.”

It’s no secret that builders prefer to build on open land because it’s quicker, cheaper and easier than previously-used brownfield sites and the houses will be in far greater demand and hence will command higher prices.

That’s why it was such a bad idea for the Government to have been advised on planning matters by the big builders. Every town and village has been expanded, ostensibly to solve the housing crisis, but invariably the houses built have been mainly executive units and far beyond the pockets of local first-time buyers. You’d think that was enough distortion of reality for private profit. But no, at Coventry it seems that

“swathes of green belt in the heart of England have been earmarked for new homes for people who may never exist…..based on population growth predictions that demographers warn are likely to be over-inflated.” Analysis presented at the British Society of Population Studies suggested homes earmarked for open fields were being planned for “ghosts”, because there is no wider evidence of the sharp predicted population growth.”

The question arises, if true does the scandal extend to other places, and in particular to Shropshire, where Oswestry Hill Fort’s setting is being imperilled on the grounds that Shropshire’s other 1,345 square miles are insufficient to accommodate projected population growth?.

The last bit of building land left in Shropshire?

Land for Sale: [see here].

“The land offers itself for a variety of uses to include agricultural, amenity, equestrian and the potential for future residential development (subject to gaining planning permission)

 

.

In normal circumstances, in most places, the possibility of residential development wouldn’t even be worth mentioning. But this is Shropshire …

A Personal post by Alan S.

Regular readers will know of my love for all things Cornish – in particular the prehistoric heritage of the Duchy area, which has been covered here from time to time.

I am pleased to say that, although it took much longer than originally anticipated after my first visit to the area in 2002, I am finally moving from the smoke of London to reside in Cornwall!

My nearest major monument upon arrival at my destination will be a major tor enclosure, occupied between 3700 and 3400 BC. The tor is visible from miles around and is a major landmark in the area, partly due to a 90ft Celtic Cross, erected on the summit of the tor as a memorial to Francis_Basset, 1st Baron de Dunstanville and Basset.

I’m talking of course, of Carn Brea, situated between Redruth and Camborne.

Valentine’s Series, Souvenir Post Card

The site was excavated in the early 1970’s by Roger Mercer, when traces of platforms for Neolithic long houses were found within the ramparts. In fact, the excavations coined the use of a new site type, ‘tor enclosure’, of which several further examples have since been identified within Cornwall.

Over 700 leaf-shaped flint arrowheads found clustered around the main entrance to the enclosure have been interpreted as one of the earliest indications of ‘warfare’, evidence that the site was attacked by warriors armed with bows and there were also suggestions that the houses had been burned down.

©Cornwall Historic Environment Service.

The hilltop has been the site of human activity through many periods since, with finds of Bronze Age tools, Iron Age (and much later) mining activity, and even a small number of Roman period finds.

There is a well on the northern slopes which is related to a folk tale of a Giant, who picked a fight with another nearby Giant, ‘Bolster’ who lived on St Agnes Beacon. This story is duplicated throughout Cornwall – the Giants of Trencrom and St Michael’s Mount for instance having a similar tale of combat.

To say I’m excited to be moving to the area would be an understatement, and I look forward to bringing  more news and stories of the Cornish prehistoric period to the Heritage Journal in future months.

 

A council in Cheshire has secured a ‘landmark ruling’ from the Supreme Court that will better protect green areas from speculative housing developments. The court judgement stated that ‘No one would naturally describe a recently approved green belt policy in a local plan as “out of date”, merely because the housing policies in another part of the plan fail to meet the NPPF objectives.’ Council leader Rachel Bailey commented:

‘I am proud that this council had the courage to pursue this action. This means that we can now better protect our local communities from speculative, unsustainable development by ensuring a proper approach to the application of planning policies.’

Meanwhile….

.

Oswestry Hillfort is unlucky enough to be situated in the Dismal and Philistine Repugnate of Shropshireland.

Archives

July 2020
S M T W T F S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Follow Us

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Facebook

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 10,254 other followers

Twitter Feed

%d bloggers like this: