PRESS RELEASE: New Waterstones Children’s Laureate praises iconic hillfort, joining call to protect its landscape from development

Cressida Cowell, award-winning author of the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ series, has spoken in praise of Old Oswestry hillfort as plans to build in its setting progress.

Cowell made a tour of the 3,000-year-old hillfort, dubbed the Stonehenge of the Iron Age, during a book signing visit to Oswestry two years ago for her latest bestseller ‘The Wizards of Once’.

The acclaimed writer and illustrator, who was announced as the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate last week, said: “As an author, places like Oswestry have inspired me both as a child and as an adult. My latest series, The Wizards of Once, was directly in influenced by Iron Age landscapes I ran on as a child. Sites such as Old Oswestry Hillfort are an irreplaceable part of our history, and part of the shared cultural heritage of generations to come.

“I would hope that in 2019 we protect and look after important sites like Old Oswestry and its surroundings, for this is a truly magical place that contains undiscovered stories about our ancestors.”

The author’s comments about the 3,000-year-old hillfort have been shared widely on social media. Josie Glausiusz tweeted: ‘I just told my son that your book is set around Oswestry and that we’ll be visiting Oswestry soon and he gave a whoop of joy.’

Objections have been ramping up to planning applications by Galliers Homes to build 120 houses within 300 metres of the hillfort as well as Wat’s Dyke. Both are scheduled monuments and are legally protected from development harmful to their setting and heritage significance.

In its objection, RESCUE (the British Archaeological Trust) comments: “The proposed development area is clearly visible from the south-eastern side of the hillfort and the visibly intrusive loss of this open space would significantly compromise its historic and scenic value. The certain impact of allowing the development to proceed, which would result in a harder edge to modern built development, would damage the visual magnificence and special character of one of this country’s most important prehistoric strongholds. Any incursion into this setting space would be catastrophic for the archaeological integrity of the monument.”

Meanwhile, Shropshire Council has extended the deadline for comments to the phase 1 and 2 applications (19/02685/EIA and 19/02686/EIA) to Thursday 18th July following a delay in posting of the site notice.

Campaign group, HOOOH, said: “Old Oswestry within its setting is both an archaeological icon and cultural asset, loved for its heritage, ecology, scenic beauty and impressive presence in the landscape, which all rely on its current separation from the town. Northwards creep of the town from this widely opposed housing will erode this fragile but vital detachment, setting the precedent for further extensions through the hillfort’s eastern setting.”

Campaigners say that the hillfort is an unnecessary victim of inflated and unrealistic housing targets which could be delivered on less contentious sites elsewhere. “It also appears that our hillfort is paying the price for 10 years of zero housing delivery of 900 homes on the Oswestry SUE (Sustainable Urban Extension) and a totally unjustified and excessive allocation of employment land.”

They added: “The OSW004 site within the hillfort’s setting may be allocated for housing in the Local Plan, but it is not a lost battle, despite the claims of those who are pro-development. The scheme must meet challenging criteria for masterplanning and design set by Historic England, and all the usual material considerations of a full planning application.”

“We are at a decisive point in Old Oswestry’s timeline; unless we act now, this national heritage jewel will recede behind creeping urbanisation simply to line developers’ pockets. We urge people concerned at this prospect to object while there’s still me.”

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