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28 November 2013
Iron Age hill fort threatened by luxury homes

Old Oswestry is one of Europe's best preserved Iron Age hill forts, seen for miles around the west of England for over 3,000 years. Legends say it was the birthplace of King Arthur's wife, Guinevere. Now, government proposals to build almost 200 luxury homes next to the ancient site have angering local residents and heritage groups, and some 6,000 people have signed a petition opposing the development.
     One of 25 hill forts in Shropshire, Old Oswestry has a series of perimeter ditches, formed between ramparts, that were designed to slow down attackers. An archaeological survey in 2010 found man-made structures in fields to the north-east of the fort, and two years ago an iron age road was discovered.
     "If houses go up, access to important archaeology and further understanding of iron age culture will be lost," said Neil Phillips of Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort (Hoooh), adding: "The sprawling infrastructure will severely erode a large part of the green farmstead setting which is an integral part of Old Oswestry's appeal."
     English Heritage describes Old Oswestry as "a site of great national importance", and has joined Oswestry town council in opposing the scheme. They claim the 188 homes planned for up to three sites around the fort will be expensive developments "for affluent commuters, rich retirees, country retreat investors and holiday cottage landlords". The proposal will be studied closely by the likes of the National Trust, which has warned that the government's new "pro-development" planning framework will result in a glut of upmarket homes being built on greenfield sites because these offer the best returns for construction firms.
     A spokesperson for local MP, environment secretary Owen Paterson, says he always defers to the local council in planning matters. A council spokesman said it was awaiting a response from local groups before commenting further.

Edited from The Guardian (24 November 2013)

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