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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)

 

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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….

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

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On the left, English Heritage’s new information board. On the right, the future. The two small developments have been dropped (they were standard Developers’ try-ons). The main one hasn’t.

In its recent draft Note 3: Historic Environment Good Practice Advice in Planning, Historic England explains how to implement Historic Environment planning policy. [NB, it advises how to implement Government policy, not how to do what’s right for heritage, a crucial distinction]. There’s lots of detail, though almost all the advice is left open for interpretation, particularly by those who wish to err on the side of development rather than conservation. However, one small section jumped out at us as being significant at Oswestry, since it provides little room for creative interpretation:

“Settings of heritage assets which closely resemble the setting at the time the asset was constructed or formed are likely to contribute particularly strongly to significance”

It is surely beyond honest dispute that the one defining characteristic of Oswestry Hillfort is that it was originally intended to dominate the surrounding land and that therefore the current open agricultural land, even if not like the original setting, is the very essence of the heritage significance of the monument, specifically because of its openness. It surely also follows, also beyond honest dispute, that adding a housing estate to that open land would greatly detract from the monument’s  central purpose and significance and detract from modern understanding of it.

Presumably, since the draft document’s stated purpose is “to provide information on good practice to assist local authorities, planning and other consultants, owners, applicants and other interested parties” Shropshire Council will now be aware of it. Will they take heed? Or lobby for it to be changed? Or just ignore it? The bulldozers or their absence will supply the answer.

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Archaeologist Dr George Nash of the Hands off Old Oswestry Hillfort group, puts it in a nutshell:

“I can’t accept that in a rural county like Shropshire, and particularly north Shropshire, we need this heavy impetus for building,” he said. “But if we are going to toe the line then we need affordable housing – housing that people can truly afford and on brownfield sites. Our heritage is under great threat from the too much development put in the wrong place. Every settlement, every village should help bear the load of the housing with new homes dispersed over the county rather than centred on the urban areas.”

Who can deny it? Or that the policy of allowing development next to Oswestry Hill Fort is entirely against the interests of the people of Oswestry and of Shropshire and indeed of Britain. But more to the point, it’s very, very dodgy.

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No chance, due to the dodgy machinations of Shropshire Council

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By the way, here’s another parcel of land currently on sale adjacent to the Hill Fort but on the other side.

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They wouldn’t, would they? Well, the sales particulars say “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)” and this IS the most contemptible local authority in Britain – so who knows?

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