1066 all over again as Snow fights to save battlefield

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The Independent Online

Peter Snow is the latest in a long line of respected public figures to lend support to a David and Goliath-like tug of war in the countryside.

The presenter of Battlefield Britain has waded into a bitter row that has erupted over a proposed housing development in Germany Beck, an area on the southern outskirts of York.

Locals are furious that the 700-home development, which has been proposed by development magnates Duncan Davidson and Persimmon, will be built over what they say is the site of the Battle of Fulford.

Historians are claiming that the project should not be allowed to go ahead since the site of the battle, which was fought several weeks before the Norman invasion in 1066, is an area of huge historical significance.

Snow has now joined a number of prominent figures, including fellow TV historian Professor Richard Holmes, in writing to the campaigners to lend his full support.

"Fulford is one of the most significant battlefields and it would be reassuring to know that everything was being done to preserve it," says Snow.

Despite his intervention, the protesters look like having quite a fight on their hands. In retaliation, the developers have sought the services of the archaeological consultants MAP, who say that recent excavations of the site have uncovered no material relating to the battle whatsoever.

"It is highly unlikely that the 1066 battlefield still exists in any meaningful form," says a MAP spokesman.

Damon's guitar is put out to rust

When Damon Hill retired from the Formula One racing circuit in 1999, he picked up his guitar, grew a beard, and promptly reinvented himself as a "celebrity rocker".

He then became something of a regular on the charity concert circuit, appearing on stage alongside such heavyweights as Ronnie Wood and George Harrison.

Sadly, since taking over as president of the British Racing Drivers' Club, Hill says he's now strummed his last.

"There won't be any guitar playing from now on. I'm far too busy doing school runs and looking after pets," he told me recently.

"There's absolutely no chance I might go solo either. I'm afraid my musical talent just isn't sufficient."

On close inspection, he might be onto something. Two years ago Hill recorded a version of "Drive My Car", which was voted one of the worst Beatles covers ever recorded.

All right on which night?

I do hope there'll be no further setbacks for the troubled production of Daddy Cool, the West End musical about the 1970s pop combo Boney M.

In March, Pandora reported that producers of the musical, which will star the EastEnders actress Michelle Collins, had been forced to delay their opening night until September due to script problems.

Now they've now been forced to cancel the show's first eight previews after the Shaftesbury Theatre, the show's venue, was reported to be experiencing "technical difficulties".

Understandably, a spokesman for the show was keen to put a brave face on things when I called for an update.

"The production is in rehearsals now and sales are going well. There were just some minor problems which delayed the start of the preview dates."

Barmy plc

Proof that the "Barmy Army" have gone corporate. The England cricket team's band of merry supporters have recently enlisted the services of PR agency, Paul Ridley Ltd.

"We get requests for interviews, and phone calls from universities and children all the time. We need someone with press experience and contacts," says senior Barmy Army organiser Katy Cooke in this week's PR Week.

One of the Ridley's first moves is to get the Army its own comic strip in a national newspaper.

Strangely, it will apparently feature a die-hard cricket fan called Jimmy, who for some reason will be a ringer for former DJ Jimmy Saville.

Lembit is brought down to earth

Lembit Opik's attempt to make a grand entrance at last week's Farnborough Air Show was cruelly scotched by the event's pesky pen pushers. The daredevil Lib Dem MP - the only Member to boast a pilot's licence - had intended on arriving at the show in his own small aircraft. Unfortunately, once organisers got wind of Lembit's wheeze, he was ordered to call the stunt off.

"My plan ran into a fog of bureaucracy which I suspect lands more planes these days than the weather," explains Opik.

"You'd have thought that an air show would be able to deal with a little twin-engine aircraft, but then I can see that they can't just have any old Tom, Dick or Harry taking up the airspace with fighter jets darting all over the place."