Please act now…respond to the latest planning application (Jan 2023) for housing in the setting of Old Oswestry hillfort
Planning reference: 23/00225/FUL
‘Proposed residential development of 83 dwellings with associated access, public open space, electricity sub-station, drainage and landscaping (re-submission). Land North of Whittington Road, Oswestry.’ Details here: https://tinyurl.com/3mdpa5ft
DEADLINE FOR RESPONSE: Wednesday 15th February 2023
It’s 10 years now that we’ve been fighting to protect the landscape of Old Oswestry hillfort, a British heritage jewel, from housing development.
In March 2022, Shropshire planners refused permission for Galliers Homes’ fourth set of plans (for 83 dwellings) – on environmental not heritage grounds. But that was not the end of the story. Yet another planning bid has reared its head, and we need to rally again.
The new application, by Cameron Homes (same group as Galliers), shows little change. It still comprises 83 houses at a physical scale, density and proximity to the hillfort that leading senior academics of British archaeology, say will ‘ruin the setting’ and therefore the significance of this outstanding Iron Age hillfort and its landscape.
Let’s stop this. As with previous planning applications, we need to submit objections in large numbers to show that public opposition remains as strong as ever. Since fundamentally little has changed in the new proposal, then resubmitting your previous objections will still hold good. You can also refer to our guide below. The objection deadline is Wed 15th February 2022.
We must unite again to protect the precious landscape that preserves Old Oswestry’s story and gives this national wonder some breathing space as urban creep threatens to smother and sideline it. Oswestry has more than sufficient land for housing elsewhere, including brownfield sites and in far less contentious locations.
FOLLOW THESE SIMPLE STEPS TO OBJECT
- Take a look at the application on the Shropshire Planning Portal: https://tinyurl.com/3mdpa5ft
Objections should be based on ‘material considerations’.
Advice on this is available here: https://www.planningportal.co.uk/services/help/faq/planning/about-the-planning-system/what-are-material-considerations
- When objecting,you may find it helpful to refer to our ‘Guide Points to Objecting’ (see below)
If it helps, you can copy and paste/adapt these ‘Guide Points’ into a letter document. Make sure you include: the planning reference 23/00225/FU; the date, your name and address, and sign it. Your opening sentence should read “I strongly object to the planning application for the following reasons”. You can email your letter in Word or PDF format to: email@example.com
- Alternatively, you can object online by registering and following the instructions on the Shropshire Council planning portal: https://tinyurl.com/3mdpa5ft
- IMPORTANT. Please remember to submit your objections by the deadline – midnight on Wednesday 15th February 2023.
Thank you so much for your support and staying with this campaign. Let’s bring the energy once again to save the landscape of an archaeological icon from the claws of destructive development.
HOOOH – Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort
GUIDE POINTS TO OBJECTING
Heritage issues and non-compliance with NPPF
- No consideration has been given to the cumulative effects of the proposals, that is, how the altered landscape will add to previous harm resulting from the erosion of the hillfort setting from northwards creep of the town. This area was previously respected by Council planning, which used The Coppy as a natural screen for earlier housing development. The decision now to develop beyond The Coppy sets a worrying new precedent for future proposals.
- Contrary to NPPF para 174, the application would adversely affect a valued and historically charged landscape that provides a visual link between the scheduled monuments of Old Oswestry and Wat’s Dyke with Oldport, Park Hall, and Whittington, and the ancient road connecting them. The existing rural landscape enables the appreciation of the hillfort’s wider heritage connections through its setting. This would be radically changed by the proposed housing which would create an urban suburb devoid of historical resonance and prevent future appreciation. Gillespies’ Shropshire Landscape & Visual Sensitivity Assessment (2018) identifies this landscape east and south-east of Old Oswestry as valued, stating: ‘..views experienced are of high sensitivity to change arising from new housing..’
- Contrary to NPPF para 194, the scale of the development fails to recognise the significance of Old Oswestry hillfort and the contribution that its setting makes to that significance.
- The proposals would see town expansion into a crucial area of Old Oswestry’s setting, visually triggering the start of enclosure of the hillfort in its south-eastern landscape. Contrary to NPFF 199, this does not take proper account of the significance of Old Oswestry as a designated heritage asset nor give sufficient weight to the asset’s conservation, especially when ‘the more important the asset, the greater the weight should be’. This applies even if the impacts of development are assessed as constituting ‘less than substantial harm to its significance’.
- Contrary to NPPF para 200, the application does not provide ‘clear and convincing justification’ for loss of significance to a designated heritage asset. The proposal would cause harm to the heritage significance of the scheduled monument Old Oswestry hillfort through urban encroachment and destruction of a key part of its historical and landscape setting. The LPA should refuse consent, because it cannot be demonstrated that the harm/loss is necessary when houses can be built elsewhere, given that more than sufficient housing land has been identified for Oswestry’s future growth, including east of the A5 bypass.
- The proposals would devastate the existing views of the hillfort from the B4580 Whittington Road, which allows the monument to be appreciated and experienced in its landscape. Contrary to NPPF para 206, development would not ‘enhance or better reveal’ the significance of the hillfort or ‘preserve those elements of the setting that make a positive contribution to the asset’.
Key stakeholder has objected
- Oswestry Town Council has maintained its objections to the development proposals.
Fails to meet SAMDev policy Oswestry S14 and underpinning Statement of Common Ground (SoCG)
- Exceeds northern limit for development
In the SoCG underpinning S14, Historic England and Shropshire Council agreed that: ‘The layout should ensure that new development does not protrude to the north of the existing built development, to the west of the allocation.’ This northern limit was intrinsic to the Inspector’s assessment of less than substantial harm and approving the OSW004 allocation in SAMDev. The proposals significantly exceed this building line, with around half of the dwellings either wholly or partly breaching it.
- No access over railway
Due to legal conditions that would prevent access across the Cambrian railway line, the proposals do not meet the S14 requirement to provide ‘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 planning application fails to provide a key public benefit of access to the hillfort that gave weight to the Inspector’s decision to approve the allocation of OSW004 for housing.
- No associated works to Whittington Road and Gobowen Road junction
The proposals do not include any detail of associated works to meet the S14 requirement that development is ‘subject to improvements to the Whittington and Gobowen Roads junction’.
- Lack of appropriate regard for Old Oswestry’s significance
The large scale of the development (including 83 houses, drives, roads, substation, pumping station) constitutes a substantial change to the near setting of a scheduled monument of high national significance. This conflicts with the S14 requirement that: ‘Development should demonstrate appropriate regard to the significance and setting of the Old Oswestry Hill Fort.’
Conflicts with other planning policy and updated assessments
- Fields that overlap with OSW004 and others within the hillfort’s west/east landscape have been excluded from allocation for housing development in the updated Local Plan until at least 2036 (a commitment made by Shropshire Council in March 2019), due to their heritage importance as part of the hillfort’s setting. This makes the site unsustainable in relation to updated strategic planning and landscape assessments that are steering development away from the hillfort and to the east of the A5 bypass.
The application fails to comply with Oswestry’s 2020 plan, since it does not provide an ‘attractive gateway’ to the town along Whittington Road. Instead, first impressions will be dominated by a modern housing estate rather than open views to the unique spectacle of one of Britain’s finest hillforts and the town’s most distinctive asset and outstanding landmark.
Overwhelming public opposition to loss of a valued landscape
- Since 2012, there has been considerable and longstanding opposition from the public and key stakeholders/consultees to development on OSW004, including 12,000+ petition signatures. This is compelling evidence that the greater public benefit comes from the conservation of what is a landscape of high value to the community, not from housing that damages the hillfort’s setting and significance and can be accommodated elsewhere.
- Old Oswestry hillfort and its landscape are much loved and appreciated as an asset of high community and cultural value. This is because of its national heritage and archaeological importance, recreational amenity, environmental beauty, and sense of escape enhanced by 360 degrees views and rural context.
- A notable aspect of Old Oswestry’s cultural and community value is the intrinsic role which the earthwork and its eastern landscape played during WW1. The plateau housed practice trenches, serving as the extended training ground for troops based at the adjacent Park Hall camp. This poignant association was marked when the hillfort was chosen for the staging of the WW1 Centenary Beacon Lighting on 11 November 2018 for Oswestry and nearby communities. The experience of all these cultural and heritage values relies on preserving the hillfort’s fragile separation from the town, with no further urban encroachment into its setting.
Unsustainable due to loss of agricultural land and traffic issues
- Development would use high quality Grade 2 & Grade 3a soils (as per Agricultural Land Classification England) which are regarded as ‘best and most versatile’ agricultural land and soils. This is not sustainable under government policy promoting local and national food supply security, and when alternative housing land is available elsewhere.
- Incorporating some 200 car spaces, the development will add to existing congestion (and pedestrian safety) issues along Whittington Road (B4580) and at its junction with the Gobowen Road (B5069) for which there is no apparent mitigation. Professional assessments of traffic volumes (submitted with previous planning application) at the B4580/B5069 junction show them to be very close to exceeding acceptable levels, even before the OSW004 development.
- The access/exit road to the development would emerge onto Whittington Road at a point just 50 metres from the Harlech Road junction on the opposite side, creating further safety issues for vehicle users and pedestrians.