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James Ruddick: History? Culture? Send for the Bulldozers

James Ruddick is the author of several books including Death at the Priory, nominated for a Non-Fiction Edgar Award in the US. He has worked in radio and television as a broadcast journalist.

Only in England could this happen: in a few days' time a judicial review will decide whether the countryside immediately surrounding Anne Hathaway's Cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon can be torn up to make way for a new housing estate. No, seriously.

The local government minister, Eric Pickles, has already ruled in favour of the development, backing Bloor Homes, and unless his decision is reversed, which few expect, one of the most popular heritage sites in Europe will be swamped by 800 new houses - not half a mile away, not even down the road, but rammed so tightly against its sides and rear that the tourists will find the little thatched building garlanded by satellite dishes, chrome barbecues and washing lines. Mr Pickles agreed that there were "material considerations weighing against the development", including "the harm to heritage assets". But he rubber-stamped it anyway.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage is of international significance. It is part of the Shakespeare story. It has stood in a tiny lane in the village of Shottery, a mile from Stratford, since before the 15th Century, surrounded by fields, flowers and cobbled walkways. Replicas of it have been built all over the world. Tens of millions have come from every continent to see it since it was sold to the nation by the Hathaway family in 1892. It was here, after all, that the boy William, collecting wool from local farmers for his father's glove-making business, met Anne. It was in the fields around Shottery that he first tasted the food of love - she fell pregnant before they were married - and where the emotional fabric of the sonnets and plays produced by the world's greatest writer was fashioned. In the Eric Pickles dystopia, however, Anne Hathaway's Cottage should soon abut a Tesco Metro and a bus stop.

Read entire article at Huffington Post (UK)