Residents close to the historical site of the Battle of Towton have objected to a planning application which will develop permanent Traveller pitches close to the battlefield. The Towton Battlefield Society Chariman Mark Taylor said “This land is on a known battlefield route line and only a short distance from the mass graves found in 1996 and other significant discoveries made in recent years and a full archaeological survey has not been completed…we have spent all year celebrating our great heritage with a Jubilee and Olympics and then we begin to destroy our battlefields, the very heart of our collective heritage.”
The Battle of Towton was the largest and bloodiest ever fought on English soil. More than 50,000 soldiers from the Houses of Lancaster and York fought for hours to the bitter end in a vicious snowstorm, with casualties of more than 28,000. While the battlefield has the utmost historical significance, it is also of major archaeological importance. In 1996 workmen at a construction site in the town of Towton uncovered a mass grave, which archaeologists believed to contain the remains of men who were slain during or after the Battle of Towton, with the remains showing severe injuries. The battlefield is a cemetery, the resting place of men who fell in battle and of men who died in terror after the battle, mercilessly beaten to death with war hammers and pole axes before their broken bodies were tossed into a mass grave. Furthermore, in October 2013, archaeologists also discovered a building in Towton that is believed to be Richard III’s chapel, designed to commemorate the victory of the House of York in the 1461 battle of Towton.
A family of Travellers, which includes three children, have been dwelling at site in question, The Gallops, since 2009 on the condition that it was temporary until January 2014. The application states that “the family need a settled base in order to reduce the need for travelling and where they can obtain access to health care and schooling for their children.” The application also acknowledges that the site is on green belt land, but states “planning permission can be granted where the applicant can demonstrate very special circumstances”. In United Kingdom town planning the green belt is a policy for controlling urban growth. Why the council has not moved to find a permanent dwelling for the family until now is a mystery.
Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are legally recognised as ethnic groups, and protected from discrimination by the Race Relations Act (1976, amended 2000) and the Human Rights Act (1998). Studies such as ‘Common Ground‘, a major report published by the Commission for Racial Equality in 2006, have demonstrated how a lack of authorised sites for Gypsies and Travellers causes widespread difficulties in communities. Several of the objectors have stated that the Selby District Council has failed in the past to provide adequate pitches for Travellers. The rural field also provides no amenities, and residents are calling for a more suitable urban site to be found to allow the family a stable base to live on.
Mark Taylor, Chairman of the Towton Battlefield Society said “In 2013 following meetings with the Battlefields Trust, All Party House of Lords Heritage Select Committee on Heritage and others , English Heritage began the process of pubic consultation to extend the boundaries to reflect the improved knowledge since the boundary was first drawn in 1994. This new boundary , which will be in place by Spring 2014 includes The Gallops as land which falls inside the new boundary and it is seen as an important part of Battlefield Heritage. It is important that English Heritage are again consulted.” English Heritage includes Towton on the English Heritage Register of Historic Battlefields, which lists 43 historically important English battlefield sites.
Residents have been given only four days to voice their objections, with the official announcement made on the 4th of January and a deadline of 8th January for the committee hearing. Should you like to make an objection you can leave a comment on the proposal page, or if you are outside the United Kingdom you can email the council directly at [email protected] . Emails should be addressed to case officer Claire Richards and mention “Removal of condition 1 (time limit) of appeal ref APP/N2739/C/09/2103054 to make the planning permission permanent – The Gallops Main Street Towton Tadcaster North Yorkshire LS24 9PB.”