ENGLISH Heritage has changed opinions on housing planned for the foot of Oswestry’s Iron Age hillfort.
The national organisation still advises Shropshire Council to reject housing at Jasmine Gardens and Oldport Farm at the foot of the hillfort as part of the council’s Site Allocations and Management of Development (SAMDev) plan.
But despite discussing a smaller scale development off Whittington Road, English Heritage now has “serious concerns” over the effects this third development will have on the 3,000-year-old hillfort.
A spokesman for English Heritage said: “The Iron Age Old Oswestry hillfort is a hugely important site of national significance. Since 2007 English Heritage has consistently expressed its concern over the impact the scale of the proposed development would have on the setting of the hillfort and we have worked with the landowners to find ways to reduce this.”
Speaking about the Jasmine Gardens development, the spokesman added: “Despite this area being close to existing houses against which any development would be seen in views from the hillfort, the area is also on rising ground close to the hillfort. On balance, development here would have a significantly negative impact.”
More than 50 people attended a council meeting to protest against the housing plans last month, including archaeologist Rachel Pope from Liverpool University, who said members of the British Archaeological Trust were concerned over the developments.
John Waine from Hands off Old Oswestry Hillfort (HOOOH) said the group welcomes the change in English Heritage’s position, adding: “As Dr Rachel Pope stated in her statement to Oswestry Town Council, this hillfort is only second in importance nationally to Maiden Castle in Dorset and as such, is an ancient monument of national and international significance.
“This strong shift comes after Oswestry Town Council too have strengthened their support for the hillfort by requesting that a full independent review of all archaeological and ecological reports, whether commissioned by the landowner, Shropshire Council, or our own group, be fully scrutinised and assessed.
“We hope that Shropshire Council have enough respect for the people of Oswestry to pause this process and conduct the independent review as called for by Oswestry Town Council.”
Shropshire councillor Malcolm Price, Cabinet member for planning said: “We will consider all the responses made as part of the preparation of the next stage of the SAMDev Plan.”
The next version of the plan will be published in March by Shropshire Council.
l HOOOH is holding a seminar and exhibition, ‘In defence of Old Oswestry’, on February 22 from 9.15am to 5pm at Memorial Hall, Oswestry. Admission is £2 and registration online is required at oldoswestry hillfort.eventbrite.com