Duke of Gloucester criticised over wind farm plan
Credit: The Telegraph, www.telegraph.co.uk 10 December 2011 ~~
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Villagers criticised a plan by the Duke of Gloucester’s to build a wind farm on his land because it will cause a “devastating blot” on the landscape and ruin the local tourism industry.
Richard Gloucester, 67, the Queen’s cousin, has given his permission to West Coast Energy to build four 415ft wind turbines on a 143 hectare area of his Barnwell Manor Estate, Northants.
But villagers have hit out at the wind farm, saying it will “seriously damage” the natural beauty of the area, kill off rare wildlife and ruin their thriving £75m tourism industry.
Protestors have described the Duke as a “villain” who would be “lynched” if he returned to the area after he is believed to have advertised the area to energy companies as a means to make extra money.
The stand-off also appears to have created a row within the royal ranks, with the Duke’s plans being openly criticised by the National Trust, which Prince Charles is patron of.
Yesterday (Fri) at a public inquiry into the matter West Coast Energy defended their plans to build the turbines on behalf of the Duke of Gloucester.
David Stewart a planning consultant for the energy company told the inquiry that the wind farm will not cause a major impact on the landscape.
He said: “I have adopted my colleagues conclusions that the landscape impact of the proposal is acceptable in terms of whether the landform in the context of scale and sensitivity to change is capable of accommodating the wind farm satisfactorily.”
“Thus finding that it is possible to line up turbines in front of or behind the particular cultural heritage asset does not in itself equate to a particularly important finding of harm.”
However opponents said they remained “extremely angry with the Duke of Gloucester”.
But Peter Stephens, 74, who is the chairman of Stop Barnwell Manor Wind Farm said described the plans as “outrageous”.
Speaking before the inquiry the former BT engineer who also served in the RAF, said: “So many people are going to be affected by the turbines.
“These turbines are huge and we will be able to see them for miles and miles.
“They will be a devastating blot on the landscape.
“The Duke is certainly the villain in this tale.
“He has tried to deflect the blame onto the energy company he has even tried to act like the victim in all of this.
“But ultimately he has acted very selfishly and behaved like a medieval land baron.
“He doesn’t seem to care about anything but making a quick buck.
“He would probably be lynched if he showed up around here again.
“He was the one who tendered the land in the first place its not as if they approached him.
“He has behaved very unfairly.”
The proposed site borders three villages, a country park and a grade I listed building.
It is believed the turbines could affect 108 listed buildings and damage the local tourist industry of East Northants, which is worth £75m locally, and employs 1,250 full time staff.
There are also fears the turbines could endanger a rare species of bat called the Barbastelle and the purple emperor butterfly.
The application for five turbines was received in January but rejected by the council.
Then a revised application for four wind turbines was made in July.
This led to a two week public inquiry which began on November 16.
Final submissions will be held on December 20 before the verdict is given early next year.
Sarah Halstead who owns a listed building near the proposed site said: “This proposal is a complete disgrace.
“He is going to ruin our landscape just for his own gains.
“What’s even more bizarre is that he is Prince Charles’ cousin and they have completely different views on the matter.”
Peter Stephen’s wife Sue, 68, who is helping to run the campaign, said: “The Duke put in the application to our parish in Sudborough thinking he would get an easy ride but he didn’t anticipate the fight that we would put up.
“Peoples livelihoods are at stake we are not going to let him ruin our wonderful land.
“Right next to the site is a woodland that homes an extremely rare species of butterfly some 2000 people come to visit the site each year.
“If the turbines go up all the visitors will never come back.”
The site at the biggest risk is the grade 1 listed building Lyveden New Bield, which was recently discovered to have a lost Elizabethan Garden.
Neighbouring the wind farm is Fermyn Woods Country Park, which attracts thousands of tourists each year.
A spokeswomen for English Heritage, said: “The visit to Barnwell Manor today was for East Northamptonshire Council to gather information for the public inquiry on the planning application.
“Representatives for and against the application were also at the site to give their views and an ancient monuments inspector from English Heritage also attended.”
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