We write to express on-going concerns within the heritage community over Shropshire County Council’s proposal for housing development OSW004, a site for 117 houses, less than 300 m from the scheduled ancient monument, Old Oswestry Hillfort.
We understand that an 8,000 signature petition exists in opposition to the development, as held by the local Hands off Old Oswestry Hillfort campaign, and that concerns have been raised by the Society of Antiquaries of London, The Prehistoric Society, RESCUE (British Archaeological Trust),Campaign to Protect Rural England, and Shropshire Wildlife Trust.
As Senior Academics in British Archaeology, we would like to give our perspective. In our view:
Old Oswestry is a Scheduled Ancient Monument statutorily protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act (1979). Development within the hinterland of this extraordinarily significant hillfort runs counter to the National Planning Policy Framework (2012), English Heritage’s The Setting of Heritage Assets (2011) and Good Practice Advice on Setting and Decision – taking (2014) and ultimately, the Valletta Convention (1992).
The NPPF (paragraphs 126 – 141) is explicit in its steer that the setting of heritage assets should be afforded protection proportionate to their significance. Yet, despite Old Oswestry’s demonstrable importance, and despiteconcerns previously raised by those within the heritage sector, alongside very significant local opposition, OSW004 somehow remains in Shropshire’s Site Allocations and Management of Development plan.
If the bar for acceptable development under the NPPF does not protect the setting of even our most significant heritage sites, then we set a potentially calamitous precedent for the greater part of the nation’s historic environment.