Campaigners have slammed the local planning system as they rally against a new bid to build in the setting of Old Oswestry hillfort.
Campaigners say that the latest scheme, submitted by Cameron Homes, has hardly changed at all from plans refused last year, with 83 dwellings spread across the same incursive footprint within the hillfort’s eastern landscape.
“The proposals still conflict with heritage planning guidance and do not comply with SAMDev policy conditions for development on the OSW004 site allocation,” said a spokesperson for HOOOH.
“But Shropshire planners are choosing to overlook policy details and seem to be done with the heritage argument.”
HOOOH points out that over 60% of the proposed development will be in full view of the hillfort, one of several significant negative impacts on the historic setting and significance of the Scheduled Monument that must be properly addressed under current planning guidance.
Campaigners said: “The planners are not listening as they should do to the opinion of hillfort experts and their assessment of this nationally important archaeological site. Back in 2014, 12 foremost academics of British Archaeology stated that development would substantially harm the hillfort’s setting.
“They have also not listened to the statutory heritage consultee, Historic England, by ignoring an agreed ‘northern limit’ for development, designed to reduce the detrimental heritage impacts. Worse still, plans show a road spur in the north-eastern corner of the site which could signal potential for further town expansion into the hillfort’s landscape.
“They are not listening to their own historic environment team, which has called for a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) ‘to ensure that the impacts on the setting, and thereby the significance, of the Scheduled Monument are fully assessed’.
“And they are not listening to the public, who have submitted repeated objections and a 12,000-signature petition to oppose building on OSW004 during a decade of local planning consultations.”
HOOOH continues: “Heritage is being side-lined, and communities are being left heart-broken by a broken planning system and broken promises.
“There is no joined-up thinking, with OSW004 arbitrarily located without links to major facilities such as schools, GP surgeries, or shops, and only adding to traffic chaos and congestion in this part of the town. Planners are not adhering to the National Planning Policy Framework which stresses the need for sustainable development; Cameron Homes’ application is plainly not a sustainable option.”
The campaign group added: “Planners appear to be so ignorant of our heritage that they are now using the housing developer’s cynical description of Old Oswestry as ‘a fortified housing site’.”
English Heritage, the national guardian of the hillfort, has described Old Oswestry as ‘one of the greatest archaeological monuments of the nation’.
North Shropshire MP’s visit
North Shropshire MP Helen Morgan visited the site last April and pledged her support, saying: “North Shropshire has a remarkably rich heritage, and Old Oswestry Hillfort is a real jewel in the crown. It is one of those sites that makes you really proud to live in Shropshire, with views over to the Wrekin and beyond from the top. I am keen to help campaigners in protecting this site and can only thank them for such an informative and important tour of the hillfort.”
Oswestry Town Council has submitted an objection following a recent planning meeting, maintaining its longstanding opposition to development. But despite long-term local opposition, Shropshire Council continues to push for development.
Campaigners are launching a social media campaign on Valentine’s Day (Tuesday 14 February) to raise awareness of the plight of the 3,000-year-old hillfort dubbed the Stonehenge of the Iron Age. This follows in the tradition of HOOOH’s hillfort hugs which have taken place in February, seeing several hundreds of supporters come together to show heritage some love.
Details of the application can be viewed on Shropshire Council’s planning portal by searching the planning reference 23/00225/FUL at http://pa.shropshire.gov.uk/online-applications/
The deadline for responses is Wednesday 15 February.