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Future of mysterious heritage site safe from wind turbines

Developers of three giant wind turbines have agreed to safeguard the future of one of Burnley’s most precious and mysterious heritage sites.

Fears were that the remains of 500-year-old Hapton Tower could be destroyed if work went ahead building the 350ft-high turbines on Hameldon Hill.

But Burnley heritage champion Coun. Roger Frost helped broker a deal which he hopes will protect secrets still buried beneath the former home of the Towneley family.

Coun. Frost said: “I am happy we have reached an agreement. The development will be allowed to go ahead in the location the applicants wanted, but the site of the tower, while the construction work is on-going, will be fenced off.

“We wanted the area around the site to be protected so in future there could be archaeological work done there. We got the site protected and research into it as well.”

On the plans, the ruins of the medieval manor, built by Sir John Towneley in 1510 as a fortified family home, lay just 100m from one of the proposed turbines.

Hopes were the massive structure could be moved to protect the un-excavated building – once the preferred residence of Burnley’s historic Towneley family.

But during the meeting, RWE npower renewables – the company behind the project – said moving the wind farm would reduce energy yields and hit their investment.

However, a comprimise was agreed between the energy company and Burnley Council which would see the site fenced off when construction begins in summer 2012.

RWE also arranged to draft in their own researchers to conduct a full archaeological survey of the “magnificent” manor which fell into disrepair in the 18th century.

All that remains today are some of the walls of the tower and several ornate carved stones now at Dyneley Hall, but Coun. Frost welcomed the site survey.

He said: “I am happy we are about to find out more about one of the most important archaeological sites in the borough. When an ancient site like this is under threat we have to seize the opportunity like this.

“Because of the application something good has come out of something that might have been a risk to the continuing existence of an ancient monument.”

Steve Milburn, development manager for RWE npower renewables, said: “A constructive meeting took place with all the interested parties and we are very pleased with the progress made. We will be continuing this dialogue to ensure the future protection of this site.”

Once the development is finished there will be an archaeological report done and a booklet will be made for the public about the history of the tower from when it was built to present day. Historians are still puzzled as to what the tower looked like, but hopes are that one day a full archaeological dig will be done at Hapton Tower to unlock secrets that have laid buried for centuries.