The Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort campaign, [HOOOH] report that they are encouraged by a meeting with Member of Parliament Shropshire North Owen Paterson, whose constituency includes the nationally important Iron Age hillfort. The campaigners argue that setting of Old Oswestry is currently under severe threat from a proposed housing development in the shadow of the hillfort. A view which is supported by many independent experts, even though Historic England’s current stance is that the development is broadly acceptable as long as a series of mitigation measures are undertaken. Speaking on behalf of the HOOOH campaigners campaigner and archaeologist Dr George Nash stated “We had a very constructive discussion with Mr Paterson, impressing on him that this is an issue not just of local but of national interest.”
Campaigners report that, as a result of the meeting, Mr Paterson has agreed to write to Shropshire Council raising the campaigners concerns that including the controversial development site, OSW004, in the Council’s SAMDev plan had failed to comply with due process or meet planning guidelines under the National Planning Policy Framework [NPPF]. Mr Paterson will also be writing to Communities Secretary, Greg Clark, on the grounds that the Old Oswestry controversy raises serious national issues given its scheduled status regarding the interpretation of the NPPF. The claims were summarised by an expert advisor to the campaign, Tim Mallim, who stated
“If the Council’s decision to allocate housing in the setting of a heritage asset as significant as Old Oswestry is implemented, then it sets a dangerous precedent for protected monuments across the country which the NPPF is meant to safeguard.”
Such attempts to move local issues onto a national stage are common in community based environmental campaigns and are designed to show local authority officers and above all the local politicians who give them their instructions, that their actions can have significant negative national consequences and cause severe political embarrassment the leadership of their political parties and individual ministers who can be forced to devote disproportionate time to firefighting an avoidable mess.
A multi-lingual millionaire and keen rider, Mr Paterson is a senior Conservative Parliamentarian and former member of David Cameron’s Cabinet. After a controversial period as Environment Secretary which saw him oversee the response to the January 2014 floods and the beginnings of the badger cull, Mr Paterson was sacked by Prime Minister David Cameron in the 2014 reshuffle. Now a backbencher Mr Paterson is regarded as a leading Eurosceptic. A role which arguably gives him increased political clout when the Cameron Government has such a narrow majority in the House of Commons.