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The Stonehenge project is going to be put back by another year. Those who oppose massive new damage to the World Heritage landscape (and that includes UNESCO) will be gratified but they may have much more to celebrate:

Although Transport Minister Shapps wants us to “build ourselves out of the crisis”, the delay may be long enough for him to find the Government’s funds have run out – and the value-for-money calculations have deteriorated.

So the chances of the Government giving him a couple of billion pounds to shave a few minutes off the journey to Cornwall are remote. Could this latest delay be the crucial straw that breaks the scheme’s back?

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How many cups of coffee will it take before someone tells him there’s no money? And how many cups will EH, HE and NT drink while drafting a response to any cancellation? Will they say “hooray, the damager is avoided” or express regret that it can’t go ahead?

 

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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.

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.”

A petition against the planned tunnel at Stonehenge, containing over 50,000 signatures, was handed in at Downing Street last month. The (final?) decision now rests with the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps who has until the spring to announce his decision. However, it is thought that a decision could well be announced in time for the new budget next week, on March 11.

In the meantime, rumours have been rife that the decision has already been made, epitomised by premature journalism as seen recently in the Salisbury Journal and the Daily Mail. Depending upon who you believe, the tunnel has either been canceled on financial grounds or will go ahead regardless of cost.

And still, eloquent and spirited letters of objection continue to arrive on the desk of Grant Schapps. Letters like the one below, copied into us here at the Heritage Journal and reproduced by permission, which lays out many of the main objections to the tunnel.

Dear Mr Shapps,

I am writing to ask you to please cancel the A303 tunnel and road project near Stonehenge as the fate of one of our country’s most historically fascinating landscapes is in your hands. This Stonehenge landscape is so important that it has been officially designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site (though this prestigious WHS status could be lost if you don’t cancel the tunnel).

The magnificent circle of stones called Stonehenge, doesn’t exclusively stand in isolation as it is just one integral part of the much wider Stonehenge landscape (this WHS is 26 square km). You can’t have Stonehenge without the wider Stonehenge landscape, and vice versa. This wider Stonehenge landscape contains many interesting and unusual historical features, which all predate Stonehenge and are significant in their own way. For example:

  • 10,000 year old post holes that once held tall wooden posts and which the experts still speculate about.
  • Mysterious pits such as the nearly 6,000 year old Coneybury Anomaly. This contained an unusual collection of ritual deposits dating from the hunter-gatherer period, right up to the start of settled farming communities.
  • Two large causeway enclosures, the oldest being around 5,700 years old. They are thought to be ritual sites but what happened at these places is the source of much speculation.
  • Approximately 15 long barrows, with an average age of around 5,500 years old. These were large burial chambers for communities of people, rather than the later different style of Bronze Age round barrows which were built for individuals and their immediate family.
  • Two cursuses around 5,500 years old, the longest being 3 km long. They baffle the experts and just one theory is that they were ‘processional ways’.
  • Periglacial stripes, which are a natural feature of long erosion lines. It is thought by many archaeologists that before Stonehenge was built, people noticed that these aligned with the midwinter sunset and the midsummer sunrise and felt it was a special place. So around 5,000 years ago, they started to build Stonehenge at the end of the line of periglacial stripes.

Stonehenge was then built over a timescale of more than 1,000 years and in various stages. During and after this time, many additional structures were built in the wider Stonehenge landscape. For example, the site we now call Durrington Walls was a village where the builders of the later stages of Stonehenge lived temporarily and had huge feasts at solstices. The enigmatic Woodhenge was built nearby. And scattered around the rest of the Stonehenge landscape are around 400 Bronze Age burial mounds, some of which contained exquisite gold items. Since 2011, various aerial and geophysical surveys etc have been undertaken. These have revealed a variety of previously unknown structures hidden under the surface and some even look like small henges. Suffice to say that the Stonehenge landscape is absolutely peppered with dozens of fascinating structures, many of which still need to be excavated to reveal their full complexity. In summary, Stonehenge is just one part of a much wider Stonehenge landscape and if you approve the tunnel then significant parts of it will be seriously and irrevocably damaged.

As just one example, all the construction to the east of the tunnel will seriously damage Blick Mead (BM). This predates Stonehenge and is extremely important for the following reasons:

  • It dates from 9,500 years ago, was in continuous use for 3,000 years, and has much evidence of ritual and other activity since then.
  • It has a unique 7,000 year old platform of flint cobbles under which were ritually preserved Auroch hoof prints. (This is the platform which Highways England’s incompetent people bored a large hole through!).
  • BM has the first dwelling in the Stonehenge landscape (this dwelling is 6,000 years old).
  • All of the above dates have been proven by carbon dating. Many other items have also been carbon dated and it is the sequence of various dates which is so vital to the understanding of BM.
  • A total of 70,000 pieces of worked flint have been found at BM.
  • Also found were 2,420 pieces of animal bone and 126kg of burnt flint which indicates that extravagant feasts were held.
  • As a result of all the above, it won Current Archaeology’s Research Project of the Year award in 2018

Sites as old and rich as BM are extremely rare and it would be an absolute tragedy if it were to be damaged by the tunnel project. The actual dig site is only about the site of a tennis court and yet it has already revealed so much. There is a lot of archaeological potential on the other side of the A303 and that too would be damaged. If BM isn’t damaged by the tunnel project, then further excavations will reveal so much more. It is by far the best site in Britain to help us understand the fascinating story of how hunter-gatherers gradually evolved into settled communities who built areas like the wider Stonehenge landscape and then the modern world.

If the tunnel project gets your approval then BM will be physically damaged by all the construction works as it is less than 20 meters from the current road. Specifically what is planned near to BM is an almost 30 foot tall four-lane dual carriageway flyover with deep reinforcing pillars, plus two extra lanes feeding in from a huge roundabout (so a total of six lanes which merge into four very near to BM). The long-term effect of all this massive concrete construction will be that BM will gradually dry out and this will destroy the carbon dating opportunities. These sequential carbon dates are absolutely crucial for understanding how hunter-gatherers gradually evolved and spread out to build the wider Stonehenge landscape, and then go on to become modern humans like you and me.

In summary to the two paragraphs above, if you approve the tunnel then BM will be seriously and irrevocably damaged and this would be a tragedy for British history……………….and humanity really.

As well as BM being damaged, the massive western tunnel portal will seriously damage the burial grounds in that area. These burial grounds all predate Stonehenge by hundreds of years. World famous archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson’s written submission to the tunnel Examining Authority says. “The proposed work will damage the WHS, especially beyond the western portal to the western boundary of the WHS where a substantial area would be rendered archaeologically ‘sterile’. This will destroy a major block of land within the WHS and degrade its Outstanding Universal Value and is contrary to the recommendations of UNESCO and other international and national parties. The road line would cut through the densest concentration in Britain of remains of Neolithic long barrows (burial mounds from c.3800-3300 BC) known in Britain. The long barrows’ distribution may have a bearing on why Stonehenge was located where it is. Important remains relating to the period before Stonehenge, and potentially to its choice of location, would be destroyed by the proposed work. The proposal should be rejected.

Similarly, world famous Paul Garwood (Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at Birmingham University) written submission says “The current A303 scheme would have a major detrimental impact on the setting and sensory qualities of the barrow group, diminishing one of the most spectacular heritage assets within the WHS. The new carriageways to the south would break up the Stonehenge landscape in a more extreme manner than the current road, while the massive new road intersection with groundworks just 100m from the long barrow, and new roundabouts and slip roads 250m away, would be even more intrusive. Such construction work would be an act of heritage despoliation, both materially and visually, that archaeological ‘mitigation’ and landscaping cannot compensate for.

World famous archaeologist Julian Richards says on You Tube, the tunnel will come out “right into the heart of an unspoilt and incredibly significant area” and “completely obliterate the setting of the ‘Lake’ barrows” which will be a “complete disaster” so he objects “really strongly” and says “future generations will say, what have you done to this absolutely incredible landscape!

I make the point that there are three organisations who should be agreeing with what Julian Richards, Paul Garwood, Mike Parker Pearson and I have all said above. They are English Heritage, Historic England and National Trust. They normally behave ethically but in this case they most certainly are not! They are completely deceiving the public by claiming that the tunnel project is a “historical improvement”. This claim is a smokescreen to hide the reality, which is that they are only focused on their little empire of land which they own around Stonehenge itself. And they are trying their hardest to remove from their empire, all us ordinary decent people driving past enjoying the view of the stones for free. It’s almost the very definition of NIMBYism. And to rub salt into the wounds the public will suffer, we will foot the nearly £2 billion cost (which is very likely to be much more!). In summary, it’s a disgrace that those three organisations are willing to allow serious damage to BM and the western burial grounds to further their agenda of selfishness to the huge detriment of the public.

I also make the point that it is only really the very established and secure (career wise) archaeologists who are criticising the above three organisations. I say this as I have been told that less secure archaeologists are afraid of criticising those powerful organisations, as they are then likely to be blacklisted which will affect their careers. Despite this bullying, a consortium of 22 world class archaeologists have stood up to be counted and written a solid body of evidence detailing the case against the tunnel project.

I ask you to please judge for yourself the honesty and integrity of those three organisations by Googleing each one’s name, and then Blick Mead. You will find that they give only a tiny amount of information about it, despite it being a very significant historical site just 2 km from Stonehenge. I leave you to draw your own conclusions but mine is that those three organisations don’t want the general public to know how important BM is and then think that it shouldn’t be damaged by the tunnel project. I think they are being very dishonest by deceiving people in this way. It’s a very far cry from all the sanctimonious and insincere claims on their websites about how much they care for England’s Heritage.

In summary to all the above, please don’t fall for this cynical con trick being very cleverly peddled by those three organisations.

I know full well that there can be traffic delays at Stonehenge, but these are always mitigated as I use the time to slow down from the trivia of modern life and admire the magnificent circle of stones. As I drive past, I think about how people evolved from being hunter-gatherers at inspiring places like Blick Mead and on to the wonderful culture of people who built the wider Stonehenge landscape. I pay my respects to those good people, whose shoulders we are all standing on, and I very much hope that the awesome Stonehenge landscape they created will be respected for the rest of the foreseeable future.

There are many other reasons that other individuals will give you to ask you to please cancel this extremely damaging tunnel and road project. But I have just focused on the above as it is all very dear to my heart. I am not an archaeologist, and a few years ago I retired after working for 19 years on 999 emergency ambulances for London Ambulance Service. I think that very humbling experience has given me the judgement to know what is genuinely valuable in the world. I think that the wider Stonehenge landscape, plus the rare and absolutely priceless chance to understand how hunter-gatherers evolved into modern humanity, are excellent examples of those truly valuable things that we should all treasure……………..and protect!

I conclude by saying that I think history, and humanity will judge you harshly if you approve this damaging and dishonest scheme. Please, please, please cancel it.

Yours very sincerely,

Paul Gossage

 

 

 

Back in November last year, we reported on a madcap scheme from Oxford Council for a new traffic scheme in the area of the Rollright Stones (see ‘Stonehenge idiocy at The Rollrights!‘). Even we thought, “surely not!”

However, it seems that the scheme outlined in November, to divert heavy traffic directly past the Rollright Stones (between the circle and the King Stone) is being given more legitimacy by the local council. The peace of the Rollright Stones is now under serious threat from proposals to turn the quiet road that runs beside it into a major route for Heavy Goods Vehicles to bypass Chipping Norton.

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A petition has now been raised, and all who enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the stones are strongly being urged to sign it as soon as possible. The petition states:

Whilst we understand the context of addressing the HGV traffic and air quality issues in Chipping Norton, the Rollright Road is a narrow C road entirely unfit for HGV traffic, or for upgrading to a full trunk road. The option has been examined on various occasions over the last twelve years, and even without fully considering the heritage, cultural and landscape implications, it has been dismissed – most recently in 2016 concluding “this option should not be pursued for further investigation.”

It goes on:

We are very concerned that without proactive management a significant increase in HGVs would arise using Rollright Road as a rat-run between the A44 and A344. The road passes within only 7m of the Kings Men stone circle and 30m from the King Stone. Part of the heritage and cultural value of the Stones is that in addition to c.20,000 visitors annually they are increasingly visited by school parties of 30-60 (sometimes up to 90) 7- and 8-year olds who have to cross the road. At 5m wide the road only just fits two passing HGVs, and the nearby blind crossroads at Tollhouse Cottage is notoriously dangerous. Rather than encouraging more HGV traffic passing through the Stones – whether directly or inadvertently – it should be actively discouraged.
We are concerned for the safety of people visiting the Stones, for local residents affected by inappropriate and reckless road use, as well as for the preservation of the Stones as a major cultural asset. The Rollright Trust has dedicated and very experienced trustees who have developed a very highly respected approach to managing the Stones and safeguarding them for generations to come, not just as a relic from ancient times. We hope our local Councils share this sense of responsibility and will act positively with strategic foresight to protect residents and the environment.

So please, if you visit and enjoy the stones, and/or are concerned by the erosion of the freedom to enjoy our heritage in peace and safety, sign the petition, and encourage all your family and friends to do the same.

If you want to know more about the monuments at the Rollright Stones, visit their website at  https://www.rollrightstones.co.uk and again, please, sign the petition to protect them NOW!

Carn Brea, near Redruth in Cornwall is an important Neolithic Tor Enclosure site. Word has just reached us that the area at the north base of the tor is under threat of development (shades of Old Oswestry here?). The intended use of the land is for a major BMX park and racetrack, a much-needed facility for the local youths. The right idea, in the wrong place! Below is a message from a local campaign group trying to get the development re-sited.

A message from Friends of Carn Brea Meadow

As you may or may not know there is a planning application currently filed with Cornwall Council to develop part of the land at the base of Carn Brea. You can see the application here – https://goo.gl/9g3Hny

Take a look at the two photos below.

Photo 1 shows Carn Brea, according to Historic England a “Neolithic hilltop enclosure with a later settlement and defensive structures, a prehistoric field system, a medieval castle and deer park”. You will notice the green fields flanking the hill – well these vital flood areas (most of which are classed as a conservation area) are in danger – BIG DANGER.

Photo 2 shows the same view but highlights two areas. The area marked in Red is hoping to be developed in the planning application. A local professional who was invited by Cornwall Council to assess the planning application said in their findings “Approval of this application might set a precedent for further encroachment of the land around Carn Brea.” – such as that marked in Blue.

This has caused a big storm in the area; the proposed development is for a BMX racing facility. The Friends of Carn Brea Meadow (consisting of families, working local people and retirees) have nothing against Cornwall having such a facility but they cannot support an application to develop over 8 acres of beautiful land.

Did you know the proposed development would see the destruction of over 140 perfectly healthy trees – trees that were planted by the local community over 20 years ago as a part of a publicly backed community initiate?

But we’re not alone – over 2000 objectors have signed this online petition – https://bit.ly/2n15jBr saying they agree that this land should not be developed.

Wait, there’s more.

Did you know this current land is free to access (YES that’s right, you can go there with you families, just like many locals do, for FREE) and the area in Red has matured over the years to become a beautiful natural meadow – it even has orchids growing in it. Not supermarket potted orchids – real naturally growing ones. Go and take your children there and show them.

But we need your help to protect this area.

The racetrack wants to use BIG LIGHTS so it can operate for up to 12 hours a day all year round (weather dependent).

It wants to use a TANNOY SYSTEM so race commentary can be heard by the masses.

It wants PARKING FOR UPTO 200 CARS.

It wants to WIDEN PARTS OF THE GREAT FLAT LODE (a Heritage Mining Trail) SO CARS CAN DRIVE DOWN IT.

None of the Friends of Carn Brea Meadow are against Cornwall having a BMX racetrack locally but cannot support the development of land that –

– Falls within a conservation area.
– Is an area of Great Landscape Value
– Is a World Heritage Site.
– Is next to one of Cornwall’s largest UNESCO World Heritage assets.
– Is listed as partly in county wildlife site area.
– Is listed as an early medieval site.

All definitions and points above were taken from Cornwall Council’s online public mapping information. https://map.cornwall.gov.uk/ website/ccmap/…

So how can you help us save this land?

It’s simple, just follow these easy steps, but you’ll need to hurry –

  1. Share this post.
  2. Go to https://goo.gl/9g3Hny by the 9th of August and submit an objection – this is your only formal way to voice your objections in time to Cornwall Council.
  3. Sign the public objection petition – https://bit.ly/2n15jBr
  4. Sign the public petition for a detailed ecological study of the site to be conducted – https://bit.ly/2OHtKjH

Thank you, let’s try and save Carn Brea and the surrounding land from development as once it’s gone – there’s no getting it back.

All of the information used in this post was sourced from Cornwall Council, the submitted planning application documents, and Historic England.

Kernow bys vyken!

We’ve spoken many times on the Journal about the lack of sensitivity when it comes to local opinion at heritage sites – Stonehenge being the prime example. And last year we highlighted several issues at Tintagel in Cornwall where the heritage of the site seemed to be taking a back seat to the need for cash generation for English Heritage’s (EH) coffers, and to hell with the history.

Sadly, once again it seems that EH’s need for finance is over-riding any consideration for the actual history and heritage of the site at Tintagel, which was the seat for several kings of Dumnonia in the early medieval period – a fact apparently of no interest to the site’s guardians. Read the rest of this entry »

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