HOOOH Statement to the SAMDEV meeting with
Shropshire Council Cabinet at Shirehall on 19th Feb 2014
We are grateful, on behalf of the camppaign to protect Old Oswestry Hillfort, for the opportunity to make a summary statement on the SAMDev revised preferred sites OSW002, 003 and 004 by Old Oswestry Hillfort and to the Leader of the council for supporting our position from the very start of the campaign.
Let me begin by reviewing what we are discussing here. Dr Rachel Pope, Director of Fieldwork and Senior Lecturer in European Prehistory at Liverpool University recently told Oswestry Town Council that “Old Oswestry Hillfort is second in importance only to Maiden Castle in Dorset”; English Heritage describe it as “One of the greatest archaeological monuments of the nation”.
Shropshire Council too recognises its status. In the prospectus for the planned Oswestry Innovation Park, the council, in its bid to attract investors, pays its own tribute, namely – and I quote - “Key attractions include the world-famous Iron Age fort.” And so it is.
English Heritage has recently updated its position, in the light of new and compelling evidence, now objecting to all three proposals. Of great concern is their most recent statement and, I quote, “Throughout the process the scheme promoters have, in our view, not taken on board the significance we, and many others attach to the hillfort and its setting.”
It would seem there is little to no confidence that the promoters have given due weight to this world famous Old Oswestry Hillfort, its significance and its on-going value for Oswestry. English Heritage go on to say, “In our view, inappropriate development will be damaging to future potential for access and tourism initiatives in the area.”;
Dr Benjamin Edwards of Manchester Metropolitan University was commissioned to produce an industry-standard Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment Report (LVIA). He states: “The quality and sensitivity of the Old Oswestry landscape was described as high due to the statutory designation and national significance of the hillfort. The magnitude of change to the landscape was described as large. As a result, the significance of the landscape impact is described as major. In landscape terms, the nature of these effects is termed direct and permanent.”; He, along with RESCUE (the British Archaeological Trust) and The Prehistoric Society, have criticised the promoter’s Heritage Impact Assessment stating that they “did not follow appropriate guidance or established methodology, either in its execution, or in arriving at a conclusion of minimal landscape and visual impact.”;
This is not to mention Oxford North report in which nearly 50% of the trial trenches were never dug!
Clearly, strategic planning decisions or allocations should not be based on such flawed reports.
Lastly, we come to the elected members of the town itself, Oswestry Town Council, who have listened objectively to the evidence presented to them including the Heritage Statement prepared by Dr George Nash and our own group’s Statement of 17 Objections.
They have clearly stated their decision to take the guidance of English Heritage in the matter whilst asking Shropshire Council to review its figures for housing allocations and focus more on brownfield and in-town dwellings.
Most importantly, our town council has recognised the seriousness of basing any planning policy on inadequate, incomplete and non-compliant reports. To play fast and loose with one of Shropshire’s and the country’s most important archaeological monuments would be unwise.
This is why they have formally requested an independent review of all the archaeological reports from whatever source as critical before this particular allocation is considered.
Opposition to these proposals comes from every quarter - local, national, international, academic, parish & town councils, organisations such as CPRE, Shropshire Wildlife Trust and The Ramblers including over 8000 petition signatories.
There is simply no Community Mandate for these proposals whatsoever.
We understand the pressures that Shropshire Council are under with regards to housing, but we humbly request and propose that Shropshire Council fully respect the views of Oswestry's residents and acknowledge the latest, up to date, industry standard, professional guidance confirming the damage such proposals would bring to this national ancient monument.
Just as OSW063 and 021 were set aside because of substantial harm to the monument and the views of the community, so should these three proposals, which are much closer to the hillfort, be set aside, to protect and promote this ancient jewel of Shropshire, not devalue and damage it.
We would appreciate the council's comments on the key points as stated.
Member since: 10th July 2012
A quick introduction - I'm John Waine, Director of TheBestOfOswestry. Having lived in this beautiful area for around 20 years now, I have decided to stay. :)
With kind thanks