Today (July 18) is a sad day in Stratford upon Avon for all of us who've been trying to stop 800 houses and a new road being built on historic land behind Anne Hathaway's Cottage in Shakespeare's hamlet of Shottery. Stratford District Council (SDC) has lost its high court appeal. So Eric Pickles' decision, which flies in the face of his much lauded Localism Act, stands firm while a small community on the edge of a conservation area falls to its knees.
But all is not lost. This is Mandela Day afterall - a day when we're asked to give 67 minutes of our time to make a positive impact on the lives of others, in honour of the great man who never gives up. I've spent my 67 minutes raising awareness of the plight of Shottery. Can you spare far less than that to help save an area of local environmental and global historical significance?
Now the legal cause is lost, the spotlight falls firmly back on the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) who own the farmland (pictured) behind the Cottage. The developers need the SBT's land to build the link road between the houses and business park. Without it, the whole scheme falls flat on its face.
To Sell or Not to Sell? That is the question. So far, Save Shottery's never had a straightforward 'yes' or 'no' answer from the Trust. Its latest statement is no different. The Trust says it will hold an emergency general meeting (EGM) as soon as possible to discuss the outcome of the Council's failed challenge and to review the information it has gathered on the degree of harm the development will inflict on Anne Hathaway's Cottage - one of its star properties.
Just last week, I attended a business open morning looking at SBT plans for one of the other Shakespeare properties it holds in trust for the nation: Nash's House and New Place. I must admit that the plans are magnificent and I'd love to see them fulfilled. However, it comes with a £4.5m redevelopment price tag and the Trust could only hope for a maximum of £2m from Lottery funding. Where will the rest come from?
They didn't mention selling off the extended family's jewels - i.e. the Hathaway family's farmland, but the Shottery developer's money would certainly enable the charity to fulfil its New Place plans. And some.
Save Shottery has always said the Trust should refuse the developer's dirty money and become a global hero in this epic saga by refusing to sell off its land. We'd be right behind it in supporting an alternative, positive fundraising campaign that brings in the shekels for Shakespeare's houses while protecting his heritage in Shottery.
If you agree, please send a message to Diana Owen, Chief Executive, so she can present your comments to her Trustees when they meet for its EGM. And, of course, we encourage you to share your comments on social media.