It is a stunning Tudor summer house, set amid the splendour of ‘Britain’s finest Elizabethan garden’.
That’s how a planning inspector described this National Trust property – before granting permission for four huge wind turbines on nearby land.
The Trust is furious at the decision, which it says will blight the historic building’s setting and spell disaster for other heritage sites.
But their fears for Lyvden New Bield in Northamptonshire were dismissed on the grounds that the Government’s green targets – to produce 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020 – must come first.
The Planning Inspectorate granted a company permission to build the 125metre-high turbines just over half a mile from the property, as well as an access road, mast and underground cables. It allowed the application on appeal after it was rejected by East Northamptonshire Council last year.
Inspector Paul Griffiths acknowledged that ‘irreplaceable’ historic assets should receive the highest level of protection.
He even conceded that the turbines would be clearly visible from the estate and surrounding villages and be an ‘alien and incongruous’ presence in the historic landscape.
Mr Griffiths noted that the garden was described as ‘probably the finest surviving example of an Elizabethan Garden’, and that Lyveden New Bield has a ‘cultural value of national, if not international significance’.
Despite this, he concluded: ‘The significant benefits of the proposal in terms of the energy it would produce from a renewable source outweigh the less than substantial harm it would cause to the setting.’
Dame Fiona Reynolds, director-general of the National Trust, said: ‘This decision is a landmark case which undermines the protection of our heritage sites.
‘It provides a clear indication that our cultural heritage is at great risk from inappropriately sited wind turbines and wind farms. If the impacts here are not such to amount to substantial harm on our nation’s heritage, it is difficult to conceive where they would be.
‘The site has the highest heritage designation possible, putting it on a par with places like Hampton Court.’
Barnwell Manor Wind Farm was opposed by many local residents and by local MP Louise Mensch. It would be built on neighbouring land owned by the Queen’s cousin the Duke of Gloucester, by West Coast Energy based in Mold, North Wales.
The Duke and Duchess live in an apartment at Kensington Palace and lease out their 2,500-acre estate near Oundle.
West Coast Energy said the turbines would produce ten megawatts, enough to supply the needs of 5,730 homes a year and ‘produce affordable, secure and renewable energy for generations to come’.
The house was begun in the late 1500s by local sheriff Sir Thomas Tresham, a devout Roman Catholic who imbued the design with religious significance. It was left unfinished when he died in 1605.
The National Trust discovered the remains of an Elizabethan pleasure garden in the grounds of the manor and restored its moats, terraces and apple orchards in the original style.
Onshore wind power sites are highly controversial and only around 25 per cent of proposals for them are being approved, according to Renewable UK.
But many more are being allowed on appeal and campaigners fear the ability of councils to ban them is being undermined by aggressive energy firms and the proposed changes to planning laws.
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