An interesting article in the Guardian shows just how unyielding the Planning Inspectorate can be on big housing applications. It’s an example from Shropshire:
A powerful group of senior archaeologists are sharpening their trowels to fight ?ethically unacceptable? plans they say will destroy one of the nation?s greatest Iron Age treasures.
Old Oswestry Hill Fort, an imposing ancient feature that dominates the skyline on the fringe of the Shropshire market town, is on the frontline of an increasingly bitter struggle pitting historians and residents against the local authority and central government.
At stake is the ancient rural surroundings of the hill fort, an elaborate, 3,000-year-old earthwork dubbed ?the Stonehenge of the Iron Age?. It is said to have been the birthplace of Queen Ganhumara ? Guinevere of Arthurian legend ? and was familiar to first world war poet Wilfred Owen, who is thought to have trained in trench fighting there before his posting to the western front.
Shropshire council is intent on pushing through a housing development abutting the fringe of the hill fort ? which is a scheduled ancient monument in the care of Historic England ? citing government targets for new builds. Land immediately surrounding the 13-acre hill fort has no statutory protection.
Earlier this month, the planning inspectorate approved an application to build 117 homes just metres from the outer perimeter of the fort, despite a petition opposing the scheme signed by 8,000 local people, and a large body of expert opinion on the exceptional importance of the site and its surrounding landscape.
Senior historians, led by two of Britain?s leading archaeologists, fear the government is using the battle over Old Oswestry Hill Fort as a ?stalking horse? to test the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), introduced in 2012 to speed up development schemes such as housing, roads and high-speed rail lines. For the first time, leading names in archaeology ? a discipline not usually associated with activism ? have joined forces to fight a single development. They hope to highlight what they see as the grave threat to heritage sites across Britain posed by the liberalisation of planning guidelines and controls to encourage economic growth….
One notable point is that the local MP there is sitting so firmly on the fence that he is likely to get splinters:
The Conservative MP for North Shropshire, Owen Paterson, is refusing to support the campaign to re-site the development. ?I never take sides on planning matters,? the former secretary of state for the environment said last week.
So let’s give some credit to our MP, Mark Francois, for getting involved here.