My letter sent to each councillor of York City to ensure that they knew that a piece of irreplaceable heritage was about to be destroyed in their name.
Excuse me for taking the unusual step of writing to you directly but I need to reassure myself that each Councillor is aware of the impending damage to the reputation and economy of York because the Council has ignored evidence and granted permission to destroy the proven location of the 1066 battle of Fulford.
In March last year, I addressed a letter to the Cabinet members alerting them to my serious concerns about the Written Scheme of Investigation (WSI) for Condition 12 of the Germany Beck planning application. At that time, John Oxley had approved a thoroughly flawed version of the WSI. Although it was subsequently withdrawn, and underwent a number of revisions, six months later a scheme was approved by council officers which still ignored the evidence for the battle and included many mistakes which help promote uncertainty about the battle’s location.
My letter told the Cabinet about the history of how false evidence, promoted by the developer, had been accepted while good evidence for the battle of Fulford was ignored. I explained how the work being proposed in the WSI ignored defects in the developer archaeology which had gone unchallenged by council officers. I questioned why CYC had agreed to phase the work, which is contrary to the terms of Condition 12, especially as phase 1 avoided places where physical evidence for the battle had been identified, raising the suspicion that they did not want to reveal evidence for the battle that would expose the earlier flaws.
Neither Mike Slater nor John Oxley replied to the issues I raised in my March 2014 letter to the Cabinet so I could not have responded to contradict the explanations offered. Thanks to FOI, I can now read the reply provided by John Oxley in a paper addressed to Cllr Merritt. I am relieved and grateful that the elected representatives did at least call on the officers to answer the difficult issues that I had raised. However I will contradict, with evidence, the answers offered by John Oxley. My response is in the attached document.
What it at stake
It is hard to overstate the seriousness of what I am saying: For a decade I have been pointing out that key information upon which the planning permission was granted was false but this has been ignored. I was not permitted to take part in the site visit by Councillors or to talk about the battle during the reserved matters hearing. The truth about the location of the 1066 battlesite cannot be suppressed for ever and CYC will not be able to plead ignorance if they permit the destruction of an irreplaceable, and economically valuable, piece of our heritage.
It should come as no surprise that Germany Beck is the confirmed location of the battle of Fulford.
· As long ago as May 2004, English Heritage wrote to CYC “..your authority may still be minded to conclude that on the balance of probability it has a significance as the most likely site of this important event.”
· English Heritage opposed the planning application as no relevant battlefield archaeology had been undertaken. Writing in March 2004 they say ‘that the archaeological information supplied by the applicant is seriously flawed and insufficient to provide an adequate assessment of the impact of the current planning application’ so they said the application cannot be determined and that the applicant should conduct further investigations and analysis which was not done. (The attached document show how EH dropped their opposition based on false information.)
· During 2004, the results of Lottery-funded work concluded that Germany Beck was the site of the battle after testing all the proposed, alternative locations. The project provided no less than four separate strands of evidence to locate the battle along the beck.
· The invitation from English Heritage to apply to have the site designated followed my presentation of the remarkable physical evidence of post-battle recycling at the Royal Armouries where senior members of English Heritage were in the audience in 2011.
· The panel of independent experts assembled by English Heritage in February 2012 recommended that the site should be designated. It is shocking that EH told their independent experts in February 2012 that they were not going to designated Fulford because of the planning situation. Happily the experts ignored them.
· English Heritage recognises the beck as the battlesite, but declined to designate it on the basis that it would ‘raise the temperature of the planning situation’. Sadly, the High Court has judged that the process was legal while concluding that I could be right about the location.
· The conclusion set out in the report Finding Fulford, published in 2010, has been presented at many international conferences of archaeologists and widely published without any serious challenge to the conclusion that Germany Beck is the location of the battle of Fulford.
· In 2013 and 2014, excavations have provided the dating evidence to show that the recycling work identified along Germany Beck in 2004 was contemporary with the battle. This provides further confirmation that Germany Beck is the location of the 1066 battle of Fulford and a major project in July this year, in which several more archaeologists will take part, will doubtless confirm this.
· It is also worth noting that the final sentence of Condition 12 requires that a plan be agreed for the design of a battle of Fulford trail along the beck. We know for certain this is the site of the 1066 battle, but you have not been told this in any of the planning documents.
What is shocking is that so much information about the battle was available before the first planning permission was granted. Even the planning inspector was led to believe that Germany Beck probably did not exist in 1066 based on a false claim that persists in the WSI that has been approved by officers, with the authority of the Council.
What I am asking you to do
I recognise that time is short but it is not too late to pause the project until after the election. Please instigate an immediate inquiry into my allegations. I will cooperate fully and provide documents and other evidence to substantiate what I say to any inquiry.
Meanwhile, please do not authorise the planning officers to approve any matters related to the Germany Beck application (including the ‘Pinch Point’ work on the access route) while the election is pending and until the inquiry has concluded.
If elected members felt able to justify burying the battlesite below the access road after they had been told that the evidence for the battle, that would be their right. But you have not been told that all informed opinion recognises Germany Beck as the site of the 1066 battle of Fulford. Nor have you been told that the archaeology presented by the developers is flawed or that my requests to investigate the recycling sites have been blocked.
My original criticisms, set out in my three detailed responses to the WSI consultation sent to CYC, still stand. The WSI was approved without the oversight of the elected members in spite of critical representations from Fulford Parish Council and a request from the Ward Councillor. Please ask why they want to avoid oversight when they know that an irreplaceable piece of heritage is at stake.
The response that I have attached is necessarily quite detailed because it is important that I provide you with the evidence to substantiate my criticisms of John Oxley. Please use the document to challenge what you are told. It is not just the WSI that I am objecting to. I have been telling CYC at each stage that the planning application itself was approved based on false information. I hope that York will not become notorious as the city that destroyed the one battlefield of 1066 for which we have solid evidence to locate it.
I would be very happy to attend meetings to address any question you may have. I have 10 display boards from the public exhibition during the recent Jorvik Festival I am happy to lend CYC. I would also like to take you on a walk round this piece of heritage to tell you about the amazing heritage that is currently in such peril. This will allow you to see both the evidence and the sites outstanding economic potential for the city.
Heritage and housing can coexist. It is never too late to do the right thing.
If you do nothing, York will lose more than an important piece of heritage.
Related sites Facebook Twitter (@ helpsavefulford) Visiting Fulford Map York
The author of the content is Charles Jones - firstname.lastname@example.org Last updated April 2015
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