Early correspondence - My opening letter went unanswered setting a pattern that has persisted for 13 years. The city planners developed the habit of sending an acknowledgement and then failing to answer the points raised in any letter. Emails came along but very little changed, except that I spent less on stamps.
19 May 2001
I was passed your name by Persimmons as their consultants on the proposed Fulford development. I contacted them when I noticed they were also working on the site of the old Briton's Dairy.
My interest is in the site of the Battle of Fulford. The old dairy site would probably have been on the battles site although, I believe, not central to it. I would be very interested to discover from either the boreholes or trenches if this site has altered much since 1066. In particular, has the highpoint on which the site is set risen or been eroded over the years? Was this hill tree covered at that time? Is any other environmental information available such as housing? It would have been a good site for a stronghold and was the only place where both flanks could be observed.
If you could let me know informally I would very much appreciate this information as I hope in due course to model the site. It is very unlikely that any weapons or skeletal finds would be uncovered in that area but I would also be extremely interested in any finds.
I have had a chance to look at the work carried out by MAP on the proposed site but it did not cover the area that I am interested in which lies on the path of the proposed access road. I have registered my interest with the Council and submitted a paper for consideration during the consultation exercise. (A copy is attached).
I have been in contact with English Heritage who have set out the evidence that would be necessary to register the battle site and protect it. Any registration would not impact on the proposed development but would necessitate a relocation of the access road. I believe registering the battlefield would attract public investment which would probably enhance any development. But first I must produce the evidence to prove the extent of the site. Any help you can give would be very much appreciated. I had the good fortune to escort a visitor round the site last month who reported regularly to the Culture Minister. But for the election, the Minister would now be aware of the possible peril for this site. I very much hope when the electoral dust settles we can demonstrate that we respect our heritage.
Attach map and submission to York city Council
CC Mr Stroughair, Technical Director, Persimmon Homes
John Oxley, Archaeologist, York City Council(less copy of submission)
I rang the company several times and as a result we had a short meeting where my interpretation of the battle was challenged but no alternative location was proposed by them. I think they were just sizing me up. This was before any real research had been done and I genuinely expected that the people promoting the development would do the necessary investigation because that is what the planning law requires them to do.
Below , I complain that I was not informed that the extra work requested by COYC along the proposed road route was scheduled.
3 November 2002
I have heard that you plan to do some of the works agreed in January on the route of the proposed access road. I am sorry that I was not informed as you had agreed to do this. I also understand that the City Archaeologist, John Oxley, is away this week.
As I cannot be there due to work commitments in London on 4th and 5th I have asked some current and former members of the local Parish Council if they would take on my watching brief. They have outstanding local knowledge of recent uses of the land which will be useful to you. One, at least, is archeologically trained and they have a good collection of finds from their walks.
I have recently had sight of a report on the Ings undertaken by Manchester University which should be published early in the New Year. It clearly indicates that the terrain has been stable and the present environment dates back to pre 1066. In the light of this, I am going to ask that similar cores (about 3m below present surface) be taken and analysed adjacent to the Beck along the route of the proposed link road.
I can be contacted on ........... I hope the work goes well.
CC John Oxley, York City Archaeologist
I write to the chairman and chief executive of Persimmon Homes as to ask that his company talks to me. I received a reply many months later from a junior consultant.
Mr Duncan Davidson
York YO19 4FE
20 November 2002
Dear Mr Davidson
The battle of Fulford 20 September 1066
I would be very grateful if you would intervene in the development proposed by Persimmon Homes (Yorkshire) know as Germany Beck.
York City Council has determined that we need the housing and I do not dispute that. I also accept that it is logical for your local company to select the cheapest access route to the proposed estate.
My objection is that the proposed access route which will bury a significant portion of the neglected battle in 1066 at Fulford which took place just a few weeks before the clash at Hastings. A strategic decision is required which is why I would like you to look at the details of this plan. Could I invite you to attend to this as a matter of some urgency as a planning application may be imminent. I want to avoid the situation where it will become too expensive to do the sensible thing and find an alternative route.
It is notoriously difficult to prove beyond any doubt the location of any battlefield. Extensive work at the undisputed site at Hastings has not produced a single artefact. However, I am not aware of any dispute now about the location of the battle only the precise extent of the site.
In addition to being a site of national significance, the battle site at Fulford enjoys extensive access to the public. It can also be reached on foot from the city and the park & ride passing beside an English Nature managed Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). There are many other arguments against the proposed access route.
The A19 is already full as the Fulford Corridor Study shows. The model show this road cannot support a busy access without traffic regularly backing up along the Ring Road.
It is hard to see how the access road can be built without disrupting the vital role of Germany Beck as a land drain from the extensive ancient moor lands extending to Heslington.
The proposed road would have been flooded twice in recent years. This suggests that, once the route is accepted, an even higher and more expensive road will be needed.
Access to the Cemetery and the Fordlands Road community will be extensively disturbed for no benefit to them.
Because the road does not enter at the centre of the site, it will have an extensive traffic generating effect.
The first houses will have the construction traffic pass their doors for years because of the position of the planned access to one side of the site.
I fear a repeat of the pattern associated with many recent developments around York. The cheap option has required significant later spending on road access. The elevation of the proposed access, a roundabout, the raising of the A19 plus a pumping station to drain the Beck have already been mentioned as costly solutions. The initial damage to the battle site would be compounded by these ‘improvements’. Once the estate is full of voters they will certainly demand improved access and a negligible risk of flooding.
The battle site is a commercial opportunity for your Company and the City. The benefits of this have not yet been explored so far in the planning process. I recognise that re-routing the road is likely to cost more. However, if fresh discussions are stared with the City Planners promptly, appropriate offsets could be negotiated.
I am keen to avoid the expensive legal battle for which we are preparing. A march is already planned in the build up to the local elections next year which might challenge the existing Party control. Most of the well known television archaeologists have been recruited. Our opposition is to the access route but I suspect we will attract allies among those who oppose the whole development. I believe we can win any second battle of Fulford.
My aim in writing is to ask you to allow your company accept the short term additional cost and possible delay. I think that there are medium and long term commercial benefits from the approach I am suggesting to develop rather than destroy the battle site.
I would be very happy to take you on a tour of the site if you have the time. We could discuss the site of the Battle of Fulford Visitors Centre! There is also a website http://www.battleoffulford.org.uk
CC Cllr Anne Reid, Chair of York City Planning Committee
The reply, when it came, did little more than acknowledge receipt of my letter
One year on, I ask them to talk about some joint investigation.
Mr Duncan Davidson
York YO19 4FE
17 July 2003
Dear Mr Davidson
The battle of Fulford 20 September 1066
I wanted to give you a progress report on the work that has been going on since I last wrote in order to identify the size and exact location of the battlefield. Five field-days have revealed hundreds of items, most still awaiting the funds to fully investigate and conserve them. However, 2 medieval items have already been given to the British Museum. Many details of the work can be viewed on our website.
The newly formed Fulford Battlefield Society is also being very successful in attracting the substantial funds necessary to extend the work. The programme, involving most local universities as well as national bodies, is scheduled to last about 18 months.
There are regular rumours that your application for the Germany Beck housing proposal is expected soon. I would be very grateful if you could tell me what your timescale is. I very much hope that we will be able to complete our work before any planning application is resolved. It would be unfortunate if the application was scheduled before our investigation work was complete. In that case we would feel obliged to object to the entire development rather than just the route of the access road.
I removed all the material from the website highlighting the inaccuracies and discrepancies in your earlier application some months ago in the hope that we can reach an agreement on timing.
After an acknowledgment, I finally had a reply in December (5 month later) from a person who had left the company when I rang to talk to them in the new Year. This pattern of delay and evading any engagement has continued.
Michael Courcier & Partners
51 Chaprle New Road
Bolton BL1 4QR
5 September 2003
Battle of Fulford & Germany Beck
I have been encouraged by Mr I Hessay of Persimmon to deal directly with yourselves in respect of the Germany Beck proposal. I am somewhat reluctant to do this as, to the best of my recollection, you have never answered or even acknowledged any of my previous correspondence. I hope this might mark a new beginning.
My special interest is in the battle of Fulford. I am happy to report that the informal grouping from a few years back has now been formalised into a society and we have had 8 field walking days and accumulated over 1000 fragments of interest. The details can be inspected on the website. The work is continuing.
The motive for my last letter to Persimmon was to discover if any date had been set to re-submit the outline planning permission as we would hope to complete our work before any decision was requested by the developers. Can you give me any information about this?
Could I now renew my earlier requests for information.
I am regularly asked to escort visiting heritage or archaeological experts round the site. I would like to be able to show them a copy of your reports and the work from MAP which provide the definitive statement of the field archaeology of the area. I am forced to rely on my memory or notes accumulated during my many visits to the NMR to study these works. The visitors ask for the sort of detail found in the report and it would be very much appreciated if I could have a full copy so that I can answer their questions.
I was never able to gain access to half of the documents referred to in your original application. I am particularly interested in the traffic projection. If any application is imminent and you intend to rely on the previous calculations could you tell me how I and others can confirm any claims made. I was not impressed by the accuracy of many conclusions you had drawn from documents such as the ‘Corridor Study’. I will attach a copy of my earlier comments to you which formed part of my submission on the recent planning Green Paper and would still be interested to hear your comments.
Can you tell me if the borehole information in the low ground along the Beck referred to in the report has lodged with the Geological Survey or, better still, give me a summary of their report. An analysis and some carbon dating of the peat layer in the area was promised in the MAP report but has not yet been forthcoming although I have tried to chase this through yourselves, MAP and the City Council. Could this be rectified as the results could be very important to the location of the battle? The group would be happy to work with you to recover the material as we are working with York University to recover samples for analysis on adjacent areas if this would reduce the expense.
I sought expert opinion of the drawing of the access road in order to see how high it was projected. In spite of all the detail on the drawings, they were not able to tell me how visually intrusive the road would be. Could you either provide me with a visual or a more informative set of plans please.
The group plans to continue the work of battlefield archaeology which we have been conducting near the area of the development. The techniques and analysis we are employing are different from ‘dug archaeology’ and not duplicating the MAP work. I would like to liaise with whoever coordinates contact with the landowners for the developers so that we can avoid any conflicts. Could you provide me with a name to contact please.
The work planned is not intrusive and we have worked successfully with other farmers and landowners. Our work is published and I invited your consultants from MAP to the first 2 walks but have not continued to issue the invitation as they did not take it up. However, all interested parties and especially those with expertise are always welcome. I attempt to publish the dates on the website although, for obvious reasons, we do not disclose the location.
I very much hope that we can enter into a sensible partnership to discover this lost piece of our heritage. Notwithstanding any historic value, the definition of the battlesite could have a commercial benefit on the area and your development if you are flexible enough to accommodate it.
Abbey House, 32 Booth Street
Manchester M2 4QP Your ref MRC/ce/2449
6 October 2003
I am disappointed that it took 3 weeks to tell me you need to have more consultations especially in view of our recent conversation. I was however slightly encouraged that your new traffic consultants have addressed part of the issue I raised relating to the misrepresentations from the Buchanan Fulford Corridor Study that accompanied your earlier application. But your report is still gravely flawed and I will submit another set of objections shortly, highlighting deficiencies in the new traffic study.
The single reference to ‘Claims about the so-called Battle of Fulford’ among the technical papers is utterly disingenuous. Your advisors have, in public debate, accepted that this is the probable location. The location was also acknowledged in your earlier application. There can be no serious dispute that a battle took place near here in 1066. The debate is how extensive the site was and what objective proof, if any, can be obtained to localise this ephemeral event which deserves such a significant place in our national heritage.
You have not yet done the appropriate work to answer these questions or entered into a discussion about how this work can be done. The conclusion you draw from the work along the route of the proposed access road will certainly not stand up to serious analysis. Could I also point out that when I last looked a few weeks ago, no report of these findings had been submitted to the SMR and that my repeated requests for missing parts of the earlier archaeological study have yet to be acknowledged, let alone addressed. Please publish your findings so we can assess them.
Your previous strategy appeared to try and marginalise this issue of the Battle of Fulford by ignoring any discussion. Is your new approach to try and ridicule the idea that a battle took place here in 1066?
Neither strategy provides a good way to conduct an honest debate. Yours is the only voice available in the public, planning documents so you have a duty of care and a responsibility to tell the truth. I would ask you to immediately amend what you say or to withdraw the latest application until the site has been properly investigated. Alternatively, would you be willing to include an alternative view within the planning papers you have submitted to redress the failures noted above?
If we are to have a serious discussion it must begin very soon. You will, I am sure, be aware that the Government very recently announced its intention to give battlefields legal protection. However you might not know that officers from English Heritage, The Battlefield Trust and City of York Council are meeting to discuss the status of the Fulford battlesite.
I repeat my invitation to start discussions about the appropriate research while the soil conditions are so benign. How many more years will you delay? We need our houses as well as our heritage and further delay on your part will, I hope, not detract from the time allowed to investigate the site.
Your ref MRC/ce/2449
30 October 2003
Further to my letter of 6 October, I really would appreciate a reply. Yesterday I attended a meeting one of City of York Council’s Scrutiny Boards. One of those reporting to the meeting encouraged people investigating the historic environment to talk to developers who, it was said, should normally be willing to co-operate.
As you are aware, I have been attempting to do this for several years but continue to be frustrated by your failure to answer correspondence or enter a debate.
You may not be aware of certain recent developments:
When we discovered that more investigatory work was being undertaken we approached your archaeologists and have co-operated with them. Why do you not inform us before as we can offer you expertise and resources?
I challenged your archaeologist, in front of witnesses, to withdraw the claim in your recent planning application that casts doubt on the existence of a battlefield at Fulford. I was pleased and relieved that she did not associate herself with this ridiculous claim. As your application makes a false statement I ask you, again, to withdraw it until this mistake it is corrected.
The investigation of the battlefield now enjoys the support of all the relevant authorities. There is a real risk that this will be resolved as a national rather than a local issue. I was able to introduce Dr Paul Stamper of English Heritage to one of your field investigators last Friday when he visited the site.
I concluded my last letter with the statement that the community needs both housing and heritage. I would be sad if we are forced by your intransigence to choose either one or the other. Working together we could investigate and develop this historic site in a way that does it justice.
I feel the time has come to publish this one-sided correspondence. If you have not entered into meaningful discussion by the end of November, I will contact the media and also attempt to test the legality of several aspects of your actions and applications.
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