Thousands criticise plan for Oswestry’s ancient site

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 have handed over a copy of the petition to Shirehall bosses

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.

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Comments for: "Thousands criticise plan for Oswestry’s ancient site"

Mike Coppock (Rowanthorn)

“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.”

I can't quite see how building houses by the Hillfort would be the best way to improve access and provide parking for the Hillfort. If it is accepted that the Hillfort has potential to improve the wider visitor economy of Oswestry (as is implied in the quote), then why not develop the Hillfort as a tourist destination by improving access and parking WITHOUT building houses beside it? .

I suspect that the mention of better access and parking for the Hillfort is nothing more than a carrot to try and seduce those who are against the housing development, and has nothing to do with wishing to develop the Hillfort as a tourist destination. After all, what has the council done so far to promote it?

Diana Baur

English Heritage is a government funded organisation and the government have housing targets. Discussions between English Heritage and the "promoter of building sites" will be a one-sided discussion. It will not be democratic and so is unlikely to be in in the interests of the people of Oswestry.

The very fact that some "scaling back" of the plans has apparently already taken place suggests that the voice of reason might just have peeked its head over the parapet.

The trouble is the voice of reason is cloaked and choked by the gods of "profit" and "targets" and "self-interest"- gods that currently stalk the corridors of council chambers and Whitehall itself.

If we are to walk tall into a new post-industrial age leaning heavily upon the goddesses of "community" and "common sense", then we need more than just a scaling back. We need a whole new outlook on what is valuable in life.

The rampant gambling that led to the crash of 2008 is still going on. We don't need a bit of "tweaking at the edges". There needs to be a complete change of heart. The hillfort represents one of those extremely valuable things that makes life worth living and that must be preserved.