THERE was anger and disappointment but little surprise at Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s decision to sell land to developers for a new road to link planned housing developments in Shottery.
At an extraordinary meeting held on Saturday (October 3) trustees voted to sell a five acre plot land behind Anne Hathaway’s Cottage – known as Briar Furlong – to Bloor Hallam Land Management.
The trust, which bought the land back in the 1950s to safeguard the historic cottage from future development, maintain the decision will help preserve the setting of Shakespeare’s wife’s home for coming generations.
But campaigners greeted the result of the secret vote by the 32 trustees with an air of resignation.
Debbie and Mark Griffiths set up Save Shottery as a quickfire social media offshoot of the long-running RASE (Residents Against Shottery Expansion).
They said: “We are deeply saddened, but not surprised, that the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has finally announced it is prepared to sell Briar Furlong to property developers.
“For anyone who had campaigned against the development for decades, the sale was inevitable under the trust’s weak leadership.
“Our final act is to recommend that anyone who is disappointed with the SBT vote, votes with their feet and boycotts the organisations connected with this outcome.”
Coun Peter Moorse, whose Hathaway ward covers this site, was equally disappointed.
“The cottage is an important part of our heritage and once these houses are built, they will be there forever. Tourism is vital to the town’s jobs and we’ve long said tourists don’t come here to look at housing estates.
“This seems to be a decision surrounded by secrecy, so complicated I’m sure Shakespeare could have devised a very good plot for a play from all this – I imagine it would have been a tragedy.”
The trust say developers have agreed to meet all its “non-negotiable requirements” to safeguard the setting of the cottage.
Further negotiations will also take place over traffic calming measures in Cottage Lane, drainage issues, and the creation of a landscaped embankment to stop the new road spoiling current views.
The developers will also pay The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust a purchase price yet to be agreed.
SBT chairman Peter Kyle said: “The developers have a valid planning consent, and, to comply with our obligations as a charity, we had a legal duty to consider the developer’s proposal.
“Alongside many others, we have opposed the housing development and in an ideal world, we would not sell the land.
“We are a small charity with a big job to do and that is to get the best outcome in line with our duty to protect and enhance the Shakespeare legacy.
“We appreciate the developers’ proposals have provoked strong views locally and further afield but the trustees hope everyone understands the decision was taken with the benefit of expert professional advice after a thorough examination of the facts.”
Permission for the building of 800 homes on two sites was finally given back in 2013 by then Secretary of State, Eric Pickles.
It followed a long fight by Stratford District Council, the trust, and villagers opposed to the plans, which included a failed legal challenge.