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UNESCO calls foul over housing scheme near Blenheim Palace

by on August 27, 2015

Proposals to build hundreds of new homes at Woodstock would harm the setting of Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire’s only UNESCO World Heritage site, the UN agency’s specialist adviser has warned.

That’s the stance of the International Council on Monuments and Sites – known as Icomos – which advises UNESCO which designated Blenheim Palace a World Heritage Site in 1987.

Icomos-UK has written to Cherwell District Council which is due to determine plans for a major residential development on part of the Blenheim Estate on 1 October voicing its concern.

The scheme, known as Woodstock East, has been on the drawing board for some time and now involves plans for 1,200 new homes rather than the 1,500 originally mooted.

Pye Homes and landowner Blenheim Estates are behind the project and insist their scheme will be sustainable and help provide the income necessary for the upkeep of the palace and its grounds.

But Peter Marsden, chair of Icomos-Uk has told the planning authority that the “development would physically overpower the existing settlement [Woodstock]. Changing the character of Woodstock would further harm the setting of the World Heritage Site.”

He also raised fears about the visual impact of the development, whose closest buildings would be about a mile from the palace – the birthplace of Winston Churchill. Many local residents share the concerns voiced by Icomos-UK.

The development straddles the boundary between West Oxfordshire District Council and Cherwell District Council. The former is due to consider the proposals on 22 September.

View more information about the development on the Woodstock East website

Roger Milne

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