[Lead Image Courtesy of Mike Ingram]
by Andy Brockman
As the Richard the Third Society gathers for its Annual General Meeting in Leicester, questions remain about the process by which Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council awarded High Tech research company HORIBA MIRA planning consent to build a £26 million test facility on part of the registered battlefield of Bosworth.
The fog of war surrounding the decision of Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council’s planning committee to grant tech giant HORIBA MIRA planning consent for the building of a £26 million test track for autonomous and connected vehicles at the MIRA Technology Park in the English East Midlands is starting to clear in the same way that on the afternoon of 22 August 1485 the acrid clouds of smoke generated by one of the first artillery duels on a British battlefield cleared to reveal a scene of carnage on the battlefield of Bosworth. The battlefield which is now occupied in part by that same MIRA Technology Park. In 1485 the most famous casualty of the day was King Richard III who died fighting heroically for his crown, according to his supporters, or crying pathetically for a horse according to William Shakespeare, in all probability only a few hundred meters from the edge of the site where the test track will be built. Thankfully in 2018 the casualties of the second Battle of Bosworth are not in the same order as the over one thousand men and horses whose remains almost certainly still lie somewhere in the fields where the battle took place. This time the casualties are trust in the ability of the national planning system to protect the most important of the nation’s historic battlefields and perhaps also, and most corrosive for the heritage sector, the reputation of the regulatory bodies and those who serve them in attempting to render that protection.
This is because, for critics of the current planning system, the decision of the Hinckley and Bosworth planners highlights all that is wrong with that system in the most clear and embarrassing way possible. In particular the fact that, when it comes to a controversial planning application that politicians, national or local, want to see gain consent, there is no such thing as a level battlefield. The advantageous high ground is always in the hands of the applicant. However, this story starts with everything which is good and exciting about the archaeology of battlefields.
State of the art archaeological research carried out in the Bosworth area since 2004, and still ongoing today, has managed to dismiss at least four previously argued locations for the battle and effectively has also written the manual on what is possible to achieve in terms of research on a pre-industrial battlefield.
Indeed, when the results of the first lottery funded campaign were announced in 2009, Jon Humble, the regional inspector for English Heritage [now Historic England] told the Guardian newspaper,
“This is the second epic victory on Bosworth’s history-steeped soil. It has taken more than 500 years to reveal one of Leicestershire’s greatest and most elusive secrets, but this is a world-class example of what can be received through archaeological research.”
However, while it may have taken archaeologists and historians five hundred years to begin to crack the mysteries of the Battle of Bosworth the high-tech automotive industry works on a somewhat shorter timescale.
Fifty One Million Reasons
Given the status of the MIRA Technology Park as an Enterprise Zone, the jobs and kudos it provides and the multi million pound investment from Whitehall, the Hinckley and Bosworth planning officers and many of the councillors whose advice they receive, will have started with the working premise that what MIRA wants, MIRA gets, even if that means gobbling up part of a national heritage asset of the highest importance.
Of course, there is no suggestion at the moment that anyone involved in the planning process has behaved improperly. It is simply a case of realpolitik and there are many things which can be done perfectly legitimately under standing council procedures to ensure that the possibility of successful opposition to the kind of scheme proposed by HORIBA MIRA, which is already remote, can become vanishingly small. It is all about controlling the narrative and making sure that the councillors taking the actual decision only see what you want them to see, with as few complicating factors as possible.
For a start you can limit your statutory consultation with the community to the local area. Forget the nationally important heritage asset the registered battlefield, this is merely a local planning issue. Right?
Then, because of rules which were set up for paper petitions, a petition from a reputable on-line website change.org, which has attracted over fifteen thousand names, can be disqualified because the format does not include postal addresses.
Most issues will have been sorted out before the plan gets to committee, that is how the system is supposed to work. However, when it comes to the actual meeting of the planning committee it is perfectly legitimate under the procedural rules to have three people speaking on behalf of the applicant and just one, limited to a mere three minutes, speaking in opposition to the application.
[For a demonstration of just how futile a task that is try explaining the concept of levels of harm relating to heritage assets as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework to someone who has not heard of them before, using the Bosworth Battlefield as a case study in three minutes]
As discussed above, the face to face meetings between officers and the applicant and its representatives, are all perfectly acceptable in the name of promoting sustainable development. Meetings with opposition parties are of course optional, although it is sensible to have at least a few otherwise you might face accusations of privileged access, not that a site visit for the committee with an opportunity to hear both sides of the argument on the ground is required.
In this regard thePipeLine understands that councillors from Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council were offered a tours of the battlefield to aid their understanding of the arguments. However only a few councillors actually took up the offer. The council was also offered a briefing by a representative of the Battlefields Trust on the tourism potential of an undamaged battlefield three times and turned the briefing down on each occasion.
Neither is it required for councilors who have longstanding links to HORIBA MIRA to recuse themselves from involvement in the planning application as long as they declare the links, as three councillors, Cllrs Cook, Sutton and Ward did quite properly before the 28 August meeting, declaring that they were members of the MIRA Liason Committee. This applies even though Cllr Ward and Cllr Sutton are respectively the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Planning Committee considering MIRA’s planning application.
Of course it is a damn nuisance that it came to a second meeting to discuss planning consent for the test track in the first place. If the local newspaper, the Leicester Mercury had not picked up the planning application and run the story on its website, thus warning the Battlefields Trust, the planning application would almost certainly have gone through on the nod with next to no opposition on 28 August.
Not that the opposition really ever has a chance because everyone knows the facilities at the MIRA Technology Park are central to national policy for transport and technology.
It is also the case that local politicians, councillors and senior officers of the council have been working with HAIBA MIRA for years.
And they all know how well connected HORIBA MIRA is in Government circles in Whitehall. The connections run upto and include, the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s trade delegation to China in February 2018 included senior personnel from HORIBA MIRA
[Prime Minister’s official Twitter Account: Fair Use for reporting and comment]
They know for example, that when Prime Minister Theresa May visited China in February 2018 HORIBA MIRA were part of the delegation, as the company press release stated,
“The UK government is investing in the field of automotive electrification and autonomous driving vehicle development. With HORIBA targeting this field as one of its growth pillars, they received the honor of being selected to accompany the visit to China.”
They also know that in May 2018 HORIBA MIRA signed a contract relating to autonomous vehicles with a Turkish defence company during the visit to the UK of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The deal was brokered by former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw.
They know too that many of the autonomous vehicles under test will be painted in camouflage and operated remotely by people in combat fatigues. Defence related projects figure strongly in the plans for autonomous and connected vehicles.
Above all they know that the Government has sunk £51 million into the £80 million partnership between the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), Automotive Council UK and the Advanced Propulsion Centre of which the TIC-IT project test track will be an integral part.
And they have seen the photograph published to mark a meeting at the MIRA Technology Park on 20 July 2018. Attending the meeting and present in the photograph are Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, four local MP’s Marcus Jones, MP for Nuneaton and Bedworth, David Tredinnick (Bosworth), Alberto Costa (South Leicestershire) and Craig Tracey (North Warwickshire) and Bill Cullen, Chief Executive of Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council .
That is the price of the heritage and of the destruction of part of the Battlefield of Bosworth, £51 million and having to be photographed standing next to Chris Grayling.
Historic England Seems The Saint And Plays The Devil [Allegedly]
However, while the Hinckley and Bosworth planners are being attacked roundly as the actual decision makers, and for the perceived unfairness of the process they oversaw, at the time of writing some of the most concentrated fire from those protesting the decision to grant planning consent is being aimed at heritage regulator Historic England.
In part this criticism is unfair to an organisation where many of its staff are doing their best under very trying conditions.
After the 2010 General Election, the Coalition Government’s austerity policy saw the loss of funding which had begun under the Labour Government accelerated to the extent that the organisation had its budget cut by over a third. This in turn led to a loss of experienced staff and with them a loss of considerable in-house expertise.
The organisation also suffered the double administrative trauma of the forced and hurried split to remove the historic properties portfolio from the government’s books as English Heritage and the re-branding of the remaining statutory functions as Historic England. With that came a requirement laid down by then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, for the organisation to support what the government defined as “sustainable development” within the planning system, thus limiting the freedom of the organisation to oppose a development outright on heritage grounds. This is the situation which has led one independent expert, who is also an advisor to Government, to tell thePipeLine that in the view of many in the sector Historic England has been “captured by Whitehall”.
That is that the organisation has become allegedly risk averse, unwilling and unable to stand up to the Government’s spending departments like the Department for Transport, and always concerned that any signs of independent thought will be punished by the Treasury with a further cut in funding.
Those critics argue that all that is wrong with Historic England in its current iteration is on view in the organisations’s handling of the Bosworth planning application and in particular in the content of the two advisory letters which Historic England submitted to the Hinckley and Bosworth planners.
To the battlefield campaigners, Historic England, through the two letters have taken on the role of the army of Sir William Stanley whose last minute intervention Bosworth in an act of alleged betrayal, ensured the victory of Henry Tudor and the death of King Richard.
In the first letter submitted by Historic England over the signature of Dr Andy Hammon on 2 August, Historic England stated that while the organisation had some “…concerns regarding the application on heritage grounds” Historic England “…recognised the substantial public benefits of the development proposal” and reminded the planning committee that the MIRA Technology Park was a center of excellence with the status of an Enterprise Zone, and that its expansion was supported by the British Government.
This in itself caused some concern on the part of opponents of the HORIBA MIRA scheme because, it is argued, the positive public benefits claimed for the project are irrelevant to the heritage aspects of the decision, so there was no heritage driven reason for Historic England to mention the alleged benefits at all.
It is also pointed out that Historic England is not equipped to assess whether or not the benefits claimed in the HORIBA MIRA planning application were credible, particularly when the only data regarding those benefits which was presented during the planning process came from the applicant and was not subjected to any detailed analysis by independent experts.
The follow up letter from Historic England, also over Dr Hammon’s signature and dated 5 September reiterated essentially the previously stated position that the development would cause some harm to the registered battlefield and it was for the council planning committee to weigh up the costs and benefits.
However, a further statement, not included in the 2 August letter, caused some incredulity on the part of opponents of the test track. The letter stated,
“It is our understanding that there is little or no scope to locate this development elsewhere. The Horiba MIRA facility was established before the full-extent of the battlefield was identified and the site registered. We [Historic England] have considered if moving the testing track slightly to the west to avoid the registered battlefield altogether would help reduce its impact. However, it would still be visible in the landscape and would potentially be more visible because the land rises to the west. Thus, the proposed location of the testing track appears to be the least harmful possible if the existing facility is going to expand.”
This comment appears to be the only evidence that there were any substantive discussions regarding a possible alternative site for the test track which avoided the registered battlefield.
However, it is not clear if the discussions referred to in Dr Hammon’s letter even involved HORIBA MIRA.
The company’s public stance was that there were technical and land issues which meant that the site described in the planning application was the only practical option.
This stance was reiterated by one of the company’s representatives at the 25 September planning meeting.
Representing HORIBA, Andy McDonald told the planning committee that reducing the track’s dimensions would render it unfit for purpose, before repeating the threat that the jobs the site generated could be lost to another site in Britain, or even to a site in Europe.
What is certain is that the comment appears to have been made in spite of the fact that no alternative site was put out to consultation as part of the planning process, let alone subjected to the required detailed landscape studies and modelling on behalf of the applicant. Thus the comment included in the letter was essentially nothing more than a subjective opinion on the part of Historic England and critics say it is difficult to see why it was included.
However, those present at the planning meeting, or reading accounts of the meeting are of the opinion that the stance of Historic England was decisive in the test track receiving approval.
Indeed, some go as far as to suggest that by stating in its advisory letters that the project would bring public benefits and that the site proposed was the least harmful to the registered battlefield Historic England were actually giving the project a tacit endorsement.
In seconding the motion to approve the plan at the 25 September planning meeting Cllr Kevin Morrell said as much when he cited the failure of Historic England to raise any objection as reason to support the application.
There is a another aspect to the role of Historic England in the controversy over the extent of the registered battlefield of Bosworth. The area of the registered battlefield was wrong from the moment the battlefield was first registered in 1995 and Historic England [previously English Heritage] have been playing catch up with the history and archaeology of the site ever since.
As expert on the Battle of Bosworth Dr Glenn Foard put it rather brutally in a report on the battlefield for English Heritage published in 2004, in his opinion, in 1994 the report prepared for English Heritage as part of the process to define the registered battlefield,
“…inexplicably failed to assess the relative merits of the alternative hypotheses then in existence and provide a definitive assessment.”
This situation was described by Dr Foard as “inexcusable”.
In a comment which was precient given the latest research, he also observed that other key elements of the battle such as areas of the flight of elements of the defeated army were also almost certainly excluded from the registered area.
One further very public upshot of this ongoing process of research and clarification as to the genuine landscape of the battle is that Leicesteshire County Council now own a visitor center interpreting the battle which is actually as much as two miles away from where the battle was actually fought.
The essential lesson is that the archaeological study of battlefields is dynamic and techniques and understanding are developing all the time, with the result that, unfortunately for Historic England’s peace of mind, the archaeology of Bosworth has been leading inexorably towards the western ridge which will be taken out by the HORIBA MIRA test track.
Indeed, had the archaeology been more advanced in 1995, the chances are that more of the MIRA Technology Park will have found itself within the registered battlefield.
Making things worse, the new Historic England axed its four advisory panels of independent experts, including the Battlefields Panel. Some saw this as a method of bringing all discussion and execution of policy “in-house” giving Historic England’s management more direct control of that policy and its execution, at the expense of a quasi-independent advisory check and balance.
Independent experts contacted by thePipeLine, including former members of the panel argue, that the advice they would have given Historic England nationally and locally, is that the HORIBA MIRA plan will cause “substantial harm” to the battlefield and set a dangerous precedent for registered battlefields nationally.
However, in this case, as in other high profile cases, such as failing to oppose the Stonehenge Tunnel and upgrading to a dual carriageway of the A303 which critics, including UNESCO, argue threatens the integrity of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, and in accepting the zoning of houses close to the nationally important Old Oswestry Hill Fort in Shropshire, the organisation finds itself at odds increasingly with independent experts and as a result risks losing the confidence of the wider heritage sector, if it has not already done so.
However, Historic England does not agree with this analysis. A spokesperson for the organisation told thePipeLine,
“The former Battlefields Panel provided advice on listing but not on planning cases. We have highly qualified and experienced staff in the organisation but we also regularly collaborate with independent experts within the heritage sector, so we do not believe we are at odds with the sector.”
The view towards the site of the HORIBA MIRA test track on the registered battlefield of Bosworth.
[Courtesy of Mike Ingram]
Has Historic England Allowed National Policy For Historic Battlefields To Be Redefined Hinckley and Bosworth Council?
A further concern to battlefield campaigners, including the Battlefields Trust, is the precedent which the decision is argued to have set regarding efforts to conserve Britain’s historic battlefields. The question is, should decisions about the most significant national heritage assets, and almost everyone agrees the battlefield of Bosworth is such an asset, be left to local planners with only the mildest of guidance to jump this way, or that way, from the national regulator Historic England?
The National Planning Policy Framework which defines the planning process states that,
“Any harm to, or loss of, the significance of a designated heritage asset (from its alteration or destruction, or from development within its setting), should require clear and convincing justification.”
The NPPF then states that substantial harm to, or loss of, heritage assets of the highest significance, including registered battlefields,
“…should be wholly exceptional.”
However, critics of the Bosworth decision suggest that Historic England have sidestepped this provision by suggesting simply that the harm caused to the registered battlefield of Bosworth by building the HORIBA MIRA test track is not substantial.
This is a categorisation with which a number of independent battlefield experts, including the Battlefields Trust, disagree fervently and the further suggestion that the creation of a 3D computer model of the affected part of the battlefield can turn major harm caused by the loss of part of the landscape of the battle into a large public benefit as described in the landscape study by the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, has been met by a combination of horror and derision, amid accusations that an internationally important heritage site is being reduced to the status of scenery in a Playstation game.
Some campaigners go as far as to suggest that, by defining the complete loss of what may be a key part of the battlefield as less than substantial harm and thereby not being required to employ the “wholly exceptional” test set out in the National Plannning Policy Framework, Historic England has allowed Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council to effectively redefine the national policy for the protection of registered battlefields without any wider discussion in the archaeological community and in particular among experts in the history and archaeology of battlefields.
However, again Historic England disagree. A spokesperson for Historic England told thePipeLine,
“We do not consider that this case sets a precedent because each case is reviewed independently, assessed on its own merits and with reference to the issue of cumulative impact.”
The spokesperson also commented,
“We have never stated, or considered, that a 3D computer model was an ‘acceptable exchange’. Through our assessment we concluded that the development proposal would cause some harm, but not substantial harm to our understanding of the battle and people’s ability to appreciate the battlefield site.”
Asked why the Historic England East Midlands team accepted the figure for the percentage of the battlefield affected by the HORIBA MIRA plan which was calculated on the basis of the boundaries of the larger registered battlefield, rather than on the most up to date knowledge about where the Battle of Bosworth actually took place; a mode of calculation which, in the eyes of some Bosworth experts, such as Mike Ingram writing in thePipeLine, allowed the planning committee to be misled to all intents and purposes as to the overall impact of the Test Track; the spokesperson added,
Our consideration of the impact of the development proposal was based around the key components of the battle, rather than the percentage of the battlefield which would be affected (less than 1% of the registered battlefield falls within the development proposal). Our assessment demonstrated that the proposed development is on the periphery of the battlefield and would not impact any of the key components of the battle, namely the area around Ambion Hill and Sutton Cheney where Richard III and his troops camped before the battle; the former Roman road of Fenn Lane that both Henry Tudor and Richard III approached along (from the west and east respectively); and the lower-lying former marshy area where the battle itself took place.”
MIRA MIRA On The Wall Which University Shall I Call
[to do the planning archaeology]?
If Historic England’s decision to define the level of harm was decisive in the decision to grant planning consent for the test track, questions are also being raised about the involvement of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services [ULAS] which acted as archaeological consultant for the planning application, and in particular about a potential conflict of interest on account of the longstanding relationship ULAS’s parent body, the University of Leicester, has with HORIBA MIRA. Indeed, the relationship between HORIBA MIRA and the University in the area of the development of autonomous vehicles is a direct one.
On 18 September 2015 the Research and Enterprise Division of the University held a collaborative event with MIRA which the University of Leicester website described like this,
“The objective of the event was to showcase the University’s research and expertise, and initiate a dialogue with the vehicle engineering consultancy and testing services provider to explore the potential areas of shared interest and establish ways in which we can add mutual value.”
The same report added [our italics],
“A number of academics from the college of science and engineering, spanning the departments of computer science, chemistry, engineering and mathematics presented their research and expertise in the domain of Intelligent Vehicles/Intelligent Mobility, Energy and Vehicle Architecture.
This event builds on a number of existing initiatives between the University and MIRA, including the Advanced Structural Dynamics Evaluation Centre (ASDEC), the UK’s first commercial 3D laser Doppler measurement & modal analysis centre and the MIRA academy, offering a broad and coherent range of training and development activities to inspire the next generation to consider advanced engineering as an exciting and rewarding career choice.”
Then in September 2017 HORIBA MIRA announced that the University of Leicester would be a partner in the £9.5 million MIRA Technology Institute along with North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College, Coventry University, and Loughborough University. The launch announcement for the Institute stated that,
“The University of Leicester will be delivering specialist courses in advanced structural dynamics using their MIRA Technology Park-based ASDEC facility, specialist software for reliable ‘real time’ embedded systems and advanced engineering management courses up to MSc level.”
The high tech ASDEC test facility was operated by the University at the MIRA Technology Park until 31 July 2018.
Meanwhile, as recently as 21 June 2018 HORIBA MIRA announced the creation of a new suite of apprenticeships at the MIRA Technology Institute . The aim of the new scheme is to provide apprenticeships which will underpin the partners,
“…ambition to help the UK develop the next generation of skilled engineers.”
The problem with all this is that University of Leicester Archaeological Services is an integral part of the structure of that same University of Leicester, being a department within the School of Archaeology and Ancient History and given the University’s commitment to working with the technology giant critics of the Bosworth decision argue that, while there is no evidence of any individual acting improperly, it is legitimate to ask how objective the University’s archaeologists could be when their own core funding is dependent on the policies of the same University management which also manages the Universities relationship with HORIBA MIRA.
The perception of a conflict of interest can be as damaging as a genuine conflict of interest and the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists [CIfA], the professional body under which ULAS is registered, recognises this. The CIfA Standard Guidance for commissioning states that archaeologists must,
“…ensure that a clear and transparent process exists for dealing with real or perceived conflicts of interest.”
However, it appears that such transparency has not been applied to the work on the HORIBA MIRA application at Bosworth.
The documents submitted by the University of Leicester Archaeology Services do not make clear the direct relationship between the University and HORIBA MIRA and do not record the means of ensuring objectivity and transparency.
But then, inexplicably, neither does the landscape study mention the Bosworth Battlefield conservation plan adopted by Leicestershire County Council in 2013.
Battlefield What Battlefield?
There is one final cause for concern.
HORIBA MIRA’s stance throughout the controversy has been to effectively ignore the heritage issues in favour of pushing aggressively the media narrative carrot of the MIRA Technology Park as a high-tech success story, delivering jobs and prestige to the area, while waiving the stick of the loss of those jobs if planning consent was not granted.
This approach was continued in a press release welcoming the decision of Hinkley and Bosworth Borough Council’s decision to grant the test track planning consent. Chris Reeves, Head of CAV Technologies at HORIBA MIRA, thanked “Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council, our stakeholders and our neighbours” for their support. He also name checked the UK Government and its £51 million investment into research at the site.
However, it is notable that the statement made no mention of the controversy and historical sensitivity of the Bosworth site.
It seems that as far as HORIBA MIRA’s public relations campaign is concerned at least, the Battle of Bosworth might as well never have happened.
This is an omission which causes some concern to people campaigning to protect the battlefield.
They fear that at some point in the future HORIBA MIRA may come back for more of the registered battlefield of Bosworth.
The Battlefield of Bosworth Bought And Sold?
Shakespeare recalled that on the night before the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485 someone posted a note on the tent belonging to Richard III’s Earl Marshal, John Howard, Duke of Norfolk. The note read,
“Jack of Norfolk, be not too bold,For Dickon, thy master, is bought and sold.”
Cynics might think that HORIBA MIRA’s planning application which brought about the second Battle of Bosworth in August and September 2018, was implicitly also bought and sold by British Government policy, and fifty one millions of pounds of government cash, before it ever went before the Hinckley and Bosworth planning committee.
In that reading the initial decision of the Councillors to defer the planning application was an aberration in a process which was designed to have only one ending, the granting of planning consent for the test track.
However, the deferral can also be read as a remarkable achievement in that, from what was effectively a standing start, the campaigners attempting to protect the registered battlefield managed to force the HORIBA MIRA juggernaut to a screaming halt for a month and turned what was apparently designed to be simple local planning decision into a major national controversy which shows no sign of going away.
Indeed, as the research for this article demonstrates, the more the decision to grant HORIBA MIRA planning consent is examined, the more far reaching seem to be the consequences and the more questions are prompted.
Indeed, it can be suggested that, whereas the first Battle of Bosworth was about who would govern England, the Second Battle of Bosworth may come to be defined as being about what value we place on Britain’s most significant battlefield and landscape heritage and just who is fit to govern it?
“We don’t have any further comment to make beyond the statement and the previous questions we’ve answered for you.”
Asked to comment in general about the issues raised by the decision to allow the HORIBA MIRA test track to proceed a spokesperson for Historic England said:
“The Battle of Bosworth was a pivotal battle in English history and we recognise the strength of feeling around the preservation of the site. In forming our advice we considered the potential direct impact on the registered battlefield as well as the proposal’s effects on wider views. After a thorough assessment we concluded that introducing new buildings and structures into the proposed development site, a small part of which falls within the registered battlefield, would cause some harm to the significance of the battlefield, but we also acknowledge that the scheme could bring public benefits. It is for the local council, as decision maker in this case, to weigh the level of harm that these proposals represent against the public benefits.”
However, when asked if Historic England was concerned that the heritage regulator had overstepped its remit by appearing to endorse the claimed public benefits of the planning application and whether the organisation was concerned about the perception that University of Leicester Archaeological Services had a conflict of interest on account of the University of Leicester’s longstanding and ongoing relationship with HORIBA MIRA and the MIRA Technology Park, the spokesperson said,
“We don’t have any further comment to make beyond the statement and the previous questions we’ve answered for you.”
Presented with Historic England’s responses a leading critic of the decision to grant planning consent, historian and authority on the Battle of Bosworth, Dr Michael Jones, told thePipeLine, that, in his opinion,
“Historic England’s comments come across as defensive and disingenuous. In their general tone, they strikingly mirror HORIBA-MIRA’s own statements, that the development is on the ‘periphery’ of the site, and occupies less than one percent of the total registered area. Battles are dynamic not static, and the development plans intrude on one of the most sensitive areas of the site, where Henry Tudor’s forces deployed.”
Dr Jones added,
“Although HE’s ‘official’ position was to portray this as a local planning issue, they seem to have been active behind the scenes, and in the meeting of 25 September councillor Kevin Morrell, who seconded the motion to approve the development, cited ‘watchdog Historic England’s failure to object’ as a main reason to proceed.”
“Sadly, I believe that Historic England have utterly failed to protect our heritage – and have undermined the efforts of those wanting to do so.”
The University of Leicester and University of Leicester Archaeology Services have been approached for comment regarding their involvement with the planning application, the nature of the relationship the University has with HORIBA MIRA, and the perception of a conflict of interest, but neither body had responded by the time of publication.
thePipeLine also understands that discussions are underway regarding the feasibility of seeking a Judicial Review of the decision of Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council to grant planning consent for the test track.