PRESS RELEASE: Shropshire MP backs calls for hillfort housing decision to go to planning committee

Campaigners have escalated public concerns over the controversial bid to build housing in the setting of Old Oswestry hillfort by calling-in the planning application for committee determination.

Campaign group HOOOH has submitted paperwork asking for the widely opposed scheme for 83 houses to be decided by Shropshire Council’s North Planning
Committee and not delegated to planning officers.

North Shropshire MP Helen Morgan has backed the move, having already submitted objections to the planning application. She contacted HOOOH to confirm that she has written to Shropshire Council urging them to ensure that the proposals go before committee in the interests of ‘justice, accountability and fair play’.

In an update, Mrs Morgan told campaigners that Shropshire’s development manager, Philip Mullineux, had replied to say that no decision had yet been made on who would determine the application. HOOOH says it received the same response in February and at the beginning of April.

Planning applications can be called in for a variety of reasons under Shropshire’s scheme of delegation.

HOOOH has asked Oswestry Town Council to initiate a call-in as a local council stakeholder that has objected to the proposals. Campaigners have also written to Shropshire councillors, Chris Schofield and John Price, requesting their assistance with a call-in as the relevant council members for Oswestry.

In their correspondence HOOOH wrote: “As you will be aware, there has been 10 years of significant and sustained local opposition to development on OSW004 expressed through the local planning process and several development planning applications. There has also been opposition at national level from British heritage bodies due to the heritage significance of Old Oswestry.

“Those against include:

  • Oswestry Town Council
  • North Shropshire MP Helen Morgan
  • Oswestry Civic Society
  • Cambrian Heritage Railways
  • Oswestry & Border History & Archaeology Group
  • 12,000+ objectors through local and online petitionThe Prehistoric Society
  • British Archaeological Trust (RESCUE)
  • Council for British Archaeology
  • Historic Buildings & Places (Ancient Monuments Society)
  • Hillfort expert, Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe
  • 12 leading academics of British archaeology

“Given the significant public interest in this planning bid, we believe it would be unfair and undemocratic for the decision to be delegated to planning officers. This would deny the opportunity for a highly engaged public to make their final representations and for elected councillors to scrutinise and balance the evidence, including the many objections based on material considerations, concerning a highly controversial bid.”

Cameron Homes is behind the latest application to build a substantial housing estate across currently unspoilt fields forming part of the hillfort’s heritage setting and providing vital separation of the Iron Age monument from Oswestry town. English Heritage, the national guardian of the hillfort, has described Old Oswestry as ‘one of the greatest archaeological monuments of the nation’.

HOOOH maintains that the proposals fail on numerous material points, including SAMDev local planning policy for Oswestry (S14) and the supporting Statement of Common Ground signed by Historic England and Shropshire Council.

Key objections to the application include:

  • Exceeds a northern limit for development
  • No access over the Cambrian heritage railway line
  • No associated works to Whittington Road and Gobowen Road junction
  • Lack of appropriate regard for Old Oswestry’s heritage significance
  • Does not meet NPPF national planning policy regarding heritage impacts

Concurring with objections made by Oswestry Town Council, HOOOH also says that the development would be poorly located in relation to the town centre and essential facilities and would add to traffic chaos in an already congested part of the town.

A HOOOH spokesperson said: “Cameron Homes’ scheme does not appear to comply with the policy or heritage agreement in SAMDev governing development on the OSW004 site. It is only right that the application goes before committee so that our elected members can ensure that the policy and heritage protection they approved are upheld.”

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