Planning dispute: Oswestry Hill Fort

Posted on: July 4, 2015 by

A dispute has arisen in the wake of the approval by the planning inspectorate of Shropshire council of an application to build 117 homes on the fringe of Old Oswestry Hill Fort, a 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. Dr Mike Heyworth of the Council for British Archaeology and Sir Barry Cunliffe, emeritus professor of European archaeology at the University of Oxford are reported as calling for a reconsideration not only of this decision but of planning guidelines generally which have been liberalised in recent times in order to encourage economic growth. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out the Government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied. The framework acts as guidance for local planning authorities and decision-takers, both in drawing up plans and making decisions about planning applications, and has been described by the Government as “a key part of the government’s reforms to make the planning system less complex and more accessible. It vastly simplifies the number of policy pages about planning”. However, archaeologists and local residents fear that protection for sites is being jeopardised and that the decision to approve the housing scheme in the face of overwhelming opposition by Oswestry residents directly contradicts the spirit of the 2011 Localism Act. Campaigners for Old Oswestry Hill Fort have said they will launch a legal challenge against the decision to approve the housing scheme, if necessary by recourse to the European Landscape Convention of 2000 (‘Florence Convention’) which the UK has ratified. On UK planning legislation, see generally Richard Harwood QC’s book Historic Environment Law: Planning, Listed Buildings, Monuments, Conservation Areas and Objects (Institute of Art and Law, 2012 with 2014 Supplement).