Beleaguered Northampton Borough Council has announced that it is redeploying six wooden sculptures of medieval Knights from their current position in the Town Center where they were placed to defend the then Council Leader, David Mackintosh MP, from a restive and rioting populace, angry at the sale of Sekhemka and threats to build football pitches on the Registered Battlefield of Northampton, to sites at the historic Delapre Abbey and the lost Northampton Castle.
[OK the bit about defending Mr Mackintosh isn’t true- even the most hard nosed medieval “sell sword” would know there was no chance of a pay day at the end of a contract with Mr Mackintosh as the former Leader’s position on heritage which saw him crowned Philistine of the Year by “Private Eye”, was indefensible and a certain shortcut to being slung over a horse, stabbed in the backside and dumped in a pit, never to be found again. That because there are no “D’s” in Car Park for a future Philippa Langley to channel and home in on.]
However, while welcoming the Council’s renewed commitment to recognising the Town’s importance in the Middle Ages and local heritage campaigners might also want to suggest a third site for the massive, tree trunk Knights created by chain saw artists, Daniel Cordell, Simon O’Rourke and Harry Thomas; the proposed car park extension at Delapre Golf Club. There the Knights could defend the Registered Battlefield of Northampton from any further attempts by the golf club to build car parks, or anything else, without planning permission, in contravention of planning rules and the National Planning Policy Framework. The golf club is currently seeking retrospective planning permission from Northampton Council for work which damaged the battlefield site earlier this year, as thePipeLine reported at the time [ http://thepipeline.info/blog/2015/01/22/golf-clubs-foul-shot-on-northampton-battlefield/ ] .
Over sixty objections to the planning application have been received so far, including from the Richard III Society, author Annette Carson, and the Battlefields Trust. Many objections are on the grounds that emergency archaeological works undertaken by the Museum of London Archaeology in response to the unauthorised surface stripping to extend an existing car park, found a medieval brooch, pottery and lead shot which may be relics of the battle, thus underlining the archaeological sensitivity of the battlefield site. Others argue it is unacceptable for the precedent to be set which rewards with planning permission, the apparently deliberate flouting of planning rules and damage to a nationally important heritage asset. Particularly one as archaeologically fragile and elusive as a battlefield.
Campaigners also note that the Castle site is currently a car park. Given this, they hope Northampton’s councillors might turn their thoughts to what, or rather who, was found in that other car park up the A14 in Leicester. If they do, the hope is the Council’s ruling group, as temporary custodian of Northampton’s heritage, might finally wake up to the fact that, properly presented, nationally important battlefields and compelling stories such as that of Magna Carta where Northampton played such a major role, can contribute far more to the local economy in the long term, than can a few extra parking spaces designed purely to make a commercial golf club a few quid on the side.