Following the Duke of Gloucester’s plans to build a wind farm on his estate, his MP writes an open letter.
May I congratulate Your Royal Highness on having served as Deputy Chairman of English Heritage? We know that members of the Royal family take considerable care when deciding which worthy organisations they will patronise. Most people would absolutely support your choice, and you doubtless applaud its mission statement:
“English Heritage champions our historic places and advises the Government and others to help today’s generation get the best out of our heritage, and ensure it is protected for future generations.”
What a worthy aspiration. Our country is so rich in heritage and history. Within Corby and East Northamptonshire we have both Apethorpe Hall and Kirby Hall, owned by English Heritage. Other sites here are managed by the National Trust, one of which is Lyveden New Bield, located right next to your country estate. Not only is the exquisite unfinished Elizabethan lodge a ruin of national importance, the garden there is of Grade I significance. It was described by the Planning Inspector as “probably the finest surviving example of an Elizabethan garden, with a cultural value of national if not international significance”. Dame Fiona Reynolds, Director General of the National Trust, said: “It has the highest heritage designation possible – putting it on a par with Hampton Court.”
Nevertheless, the site is to be ruined by giant wind turbines, opposed by all local people, and turned down flat by the local council, but allowed by the same Planning Inspector. Since he has, inexplicably, prioritised regional targets for renewable energy over “international significance”, even the Secretary of State has no power to intervene. Local people and heritage campaigners must look to a judicial review, and who knows if there has been an error of law – though clearly one of common sense.
But we do have a hope. And, sir, you are that hope. Your Royal Highness can still save Lyveden New Bield. The wind farm is to be built on your land, and, we read, to profit your estate. The turbines will be 415ft high, about one and half times the size of Big Ben. They will dominate and desolate the landscape. If you are to profit, you can stop it. People in East Northamptonshire implore you to do so.
The National Trust has described the decision to site the wind farm on your land as “a landmark case which undermines the protection of our heritage sites. 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.”
And what does English Heritage have to say about the wind farm?
“If the decision reached at Lyveden is allowed to become the benchmark for future wind energy developments, we do not believe that any of England’s priceless historic sites and landscapes will be safe.”
Sir, my constituents are desperate to prevent this terrible blight on East Northamptonshire and Lyveden. Both the National Trust and English Heritage are united in fighting it. You own this land in our area, but you live in Kensington Palace; would you appreciate four turbines larger than Big Ben sited directly behind your own back window?
Local people simply cannot believe that a prince of the realm, one committed to our nation’s heritage and history, is going to do this and profit from it. Should not members of the Royal family be committed to defending our heritage and not despoiling it? Most local campaigners I have spoken to are as loyal monarchists as it is possible to be; but they are bewildered, and devastated. Money is soon spent, but the impact on our history and environment will long be felt. There is nothing of conservation, or true green politics here.
I ask Your Royal Highness to meet local campaigners, and representatives of English Heritage and the National Trust, so that you can assess personally the strength of feeling and the impact on all heritage sites, and then decide for yourself if you will become a hero to those organisations, and your Northamptonshire neighbours, who are relying on you for help.
Louise Mensch, MP
Corby and East Northamptonshire
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