Oswestry Town Council has restated its opposition to housing earmarked in the setting of Old Oswestry hillfort as Shropshire Council reviews the County’s local plan.
The move comes as Shropshire reports a surplus in five-year housing land supply, sparking hopes that plans for a large housing estate closing in on the hillfort can now be removed from the figures.
The council objected to the allocation (OSW004) during the original SAMDev consultation, along with other local stakeholders, national heritage and environmental groups, and signatories of a petition now with 12,000 names.
Town councillors on the planning committee agreed to write to Shropshire Council to maintain their opposition and ask planners to use the current SAMDev review to remove the highly controversial site.
Campaigners have welcomed the resolution as they continue to challenge a bid for town growth across a slim wedge of greenfield separating the hillfort from the A5 bypass.
The HOOOH campaign and Oswestry Heritage Gateway group recently gave a presentation to the council offering an alternative view of how the landscape north of Whittington Road and around the hillfort could be used as a positive driver for developing tourism.
Heritage expert, Tim Malim, outlined a vision not only to continue conservation efforts at Old Oswestry but also promote the iconic monument as the hub of the town’s historic northern landscape. The 3,000-year-old Iron Age hillfort is Shropshire’s most significant prehistoric site, whose archaeological importance has been compared to Stonehenge and the landscape it sits within.
He comments: “Surrounding the hillfort are many other fascinating historic sites, which can be connected as a focus for heritage and recreational tourism. Some are commercial enterprises, others have charitable status, while many are free to visit. Existing footpaths could be supplemented by new links, allowing visitors and walkers to flow into Oswestry and nearby attractions from this northern heritage gateway.”
Mr Malim presented ideas for furthering the landscape and access improvements completed almost a decade ago with the support of the council and other stakeholders. Councillors were told that the project would help in supporting economic regeneration from tourism and historic assets emphasised in the Oswestry BID, the town’s application to become a Heritage Action Zone, and Shropshire Council’s economic and core strategies. Mr Malim also updated councillors on new planning issues affecting the viability of housing development in the hillfort’s setting.
Afterwards, councillors raised a number of points including the need for further improvement of disabled access to the hillfort and how the site could be more prominently promoted within the town. Mr Malim and group member Kate Clarke suggested that the hillfort and heritage gateway could be given dedicated space in the planned new tourist centre. They also commented that local volunteers working with English Heritage would be keen to explore ways of facilitating access to the site for disabled people and developing recreational initiatives for all parts of the community.
Tourism opportunities offered by the Oswestry Heritage Gateway were also well received at a presentation to Selattyn and Gobowen Parish Council. The council has appointed a hillfort representative to update members about news and issues affecting Old Oswestry which lies within the parish.
The hillfort groups have asked Oswestry Town Council if it would consider appointing a member to undertake a similar role, and are awaiting a response.