THE voices of nearly 5,000 people from across the world were brought to Shropshire Council on Friday when a petition calling for the protection of Oswestry’s Hillfort was delivered.
A band of campaigners, led by The Best of Oswestry’s John Waine, converged on Shirehall, in Shrewsbury, to officially hand over the ‘Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort’ petition to Councillor Mal Price, Cabinet member with responsibility for Planning.
It calls for the unitary authority to make a u-turn after its Site Allocations Management and Development (SAMDev) plan identified land at the foot of the Iron Age monument for potential housing developments.
The plan, which ended its second consultation phase on Friday, has earmarked three sites to hold 188 homes.
The petition, which only launched on August 1, has signatures coming in from not only the Oswestry area, but countries across Europe and as far away as the USA, Brazil and New Zealand.
The British Archaeological Trust, known as RESCUE, has submitted its own detailed objections to the council.
Mr Waine said: “It should be taken into consideration. This is a consultation and everything is equal.
“We have nearly 5,000 signatures, it is a huge number of people, as well as other groups such as RESCUE and these are people who know what they are talking about – this will not stop here.”
The hand-in comes as the Oswestry and District Civic Society and the Oswestry Border History and Archaeology Group gave their response to the plans.
In a joint statement they said that they had both been in “serious and detailed discussion” with English Heritage, and said: “Looking ahead to matters of planning and visitors provision, both organisations strongly believe that the present type of consultation is inadequate and incorrect.”
However, although they added that a framework agreed by English Heritage and led by them would “provide an effective benchmark and satisfactory future point of reference,” Mr Waine said this is still not enough.
“There’s no real reason for the development,” he continued. “It has been pushed and pushed and pushed, and quite simply all the council have got to ask themselves is what would they do if the land wasn’t available?”
Any unresolved objections to SAMDev proposals will be considered by an independent planning inspector during 2014, which could resolve in changes being made before it is formally adopted in 2015.
Last week, Shropshire Council said it had also “worked closely” with English Heritage and the promoter of the housing sites to assess the impact of the plan, which they said has led to a reduction in the scale of the development since the previous SAMDev consultation last year and it would improve access to the hillfort.
Cllr Price commented: “The latest proposal seeks to strike a balance between preserving and improving this historic landmark, and meeting the local need for development.
n As part of the ongoing campaign, a ‘Sound of the Iron Age’ benefit gig will take place next month to raise money for the cause.
Hosted by Duncan Kerr, a town councillor and owner of the former Hermon Chapel, in partnership with local band, Shifty Chicken Shed, the event takes place at the chapel on Saturday, September 14, from 8pm.
As well as Shifty Chicken Shed, local musicians Barry Edwards and Neil Phillips, as well as the Skin Tight Ponchos, from Bala, will perform for free.
Tickets are available for £5 from Outwhere Records.