Heritage body urged to block housing over battlefield claims

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CAMPAIGNERS are urging English Heritage to prevent blueprints for one of Yorkshire’s largest housing schemes being approved amid claims the development is earmarked for a battlefield which shaped the nation’s history.

York Council is due to meet this month to consider plans for a 657-home project on the outskirts of the city, which activists maintain is the site of the Battle of Fulford in 1066.

The Yorkshire Post revealed in February that English Heritage is undertaking a review of its decision not to officially designate the land as a battlefield after being presented with new evidence.

Members of the Fulford Battlefield Society opposed to the housing scheme have claimed the planning fight has been mired in misleading information presented by one of the UK’s biggest developers, York-based Persimmon Homes.

Historian Chas Jones, who formed the society, has now written to English Heritage to call on officials to step in and request York Council defers a decision on the reserved matters application until the review is completed.

Mr Jones claimed the authority’s planning officers have told him a decision to designate the land as an official battlefield would affect the consideration of the application.

He said: “I would hope the council will defer any decision until such an important outstanding matter is resolved. This really could be a defining decision as far as the housing development is concerned – and also for preserving what we believe is a priceless piece of history.”

English Heritage confirmed if the land is added to the Register of Historic Battlefields, permission given by the Government in 2007 following a public inquiry would have to be reviewed.

The move could then halt the development at a site dubbed Germany Beck that had been put on hold by Persimmon Homes during the economic downturn.

A council spokeswoman confirmed the planning committee will meet on April 25 to consider the reserved matters application, which includes details of the appearance, landscaping, layout and scale of the homes.

Liberal Democrat councillor Keith Aspden has been at the forefront of a campaign to ensure concerns over flooding, traffic levels and air pollution are addressed.

He urged residents and campaigners to submit responses to a consultation about the application before an April 17 deadline.

Coun Aspden said: “The city council must take the proper steps to ensure that residents have all the information they need and their views are heard. We need to make sure that the public consultation is not just a sham.”

English Heritage admitted the site earmarked for the development remains “the most likely candidate” for the clash between Viking invaders and English forces, which had a huge impact on the Battle of Hastings and William the Conqueror ultimately being crowned King of England.

The organisation admitted there has been “a great deal of debate” surrounding the battle, but a question mark remains over its precise location.

Extensive archaeological work has found evidence of Iron-Age, Romano-British and medieval activity, but nothing can be “securely identified” as coming from the Battle of Fulford, according to English Heritage.

The national register already lists 43 battlefields including Stamford Bridge and Towton in North Yorkshire as well as Hastings in East Sussex, Bosworth Field in Leicestershire and Naseby in Northamptonshire.

Both York Council and Persimmon Homes have stressed there is no conclusive proof to suggest the land was the location of the battle.

The director of Persimmon Homes Yorkshire, Simon Usher, was adamant English Heritage’s assessment was “thorough, comprehensive and conclusive” in its recommendation not to include the site on the register.