A total of 5,620 people from than 20 countries have signed an online petition against plans to build homes in the shadow of one of Shropshire’s most prominent ancient monuments.
Campaigners against the plans around Oswestry’s Iron Age hillfort handed over a copy of the petition to Shirehall bosses on Friday.
Ahead of the handover, the campaigners said they thought up to 4,000 people would back their battle against proposals to develop three parcels of land around the landmark.
But after tallying up all the signatories, the campaigners say total signatures amounted to 5,620 with 1,730 collected from around Oswestry town centre.
John Waine, from the Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort campaign, said he was delighted with the support being shown.
“Since the campaign began on August 1, the organisers have been overwhelmed with support from across Oswestry and the county, as well as nationally and internationally with people from over 20 countries such as the United States, South Africa and Egypt declaring their firm objections to these proposals.”
Mr Waine said The British Archaeological Trust, known as Rescue, had also added its voice to the campaign.
The body has submitted its own detailed objections to the council, claiming the plans did not comply with national planning policy and would have an unacceptably negative impact on the Old Oswestry hillfort, a statutorily protected Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The Ramblers group in Shropshire has voiced its strong opposition to the proposals stating: “The Ramblers in Shropshire are appalled at the suggestion that houses should be built on land close to and forming part of Oswestry Old Hill Fort.
“This is a historical site of international importance and the idea that it should be encroached on by building development beggars belief.
“There are many other sites in the Oswestry area that can provide suitable land for development without touching this treasure.”
The proposals are part of Shropshire Council’s wide-reaching SAMDev development plan which will govern what is built in the county for the next decade and more.
The consultation closed on Friday and council chiefs are now considering the responses.
But they have already said the housing proposals around the Hill Fort seek to bring benefits to Oswestry.
Mal Price, Shropshire Council Cabinet member with responsibility for planning, said initial housing plans had already been scaled back.
He said the latest proposal seeks to find a balance between protecting the historic landmark, and meeting the local need for development.
Mr Price added: “The planned development could provide a vast improvement to access and parking at the Hillfort, which can only be good news for the site and the wider visitor economy of Oswestry.”
Council bosses added they had worked closely with English Heritage and the promoter of housing sites near the monument to assess the potential impacts of further housing development on the hill fort.
They said those discussions had resulted in a significant reduction in the scale of development near the hill fort, relative to that illustrated in the previous SAMDev consultation last year.
The latest draft version of the SAMDev Plan was published for public consultation on July 1 for a period of eight weeks.
The next version of the SAMDev Plan will be published for consultation towards the end of 2013.
Unresolved objections to any of the SAMDev proposals will be considered by an independent planning inspector during 2014, who may recommend changes before the plan is adopted in 2015.