Bespectacled and soberly dressed, the planning inspector Paul Griffiths looks every inch the quiet, rather anonymous bureaucrat.
The only event to disturb his studious examination of planning appeals in recent years came when a protester appeared at a wind farm inquiry waving a plastic samurai sword.
Now, however, Griffiths finds himself at the centre of a political storm, accused of blighting historic sites to help the government meet its renewable energy targets by giving the go-ahead for wind farms in some of Britain’s most sensitive landscapes.
In his most recent ruling, Griffiths gave permission for four wind turbines to be built on the Duke of Gloucester’s land in Northamptonshire close to the grade I listed Tudor summer house, Lyveden New Bield, which belongs to the National Trust.
Both the trust and English Heritage are examining Griffiths’s ruling. “We will be reviewing whether the inspector gave proper consideration to Lyveden and if this gives rise to a possible legal challenge,” English Heritage said.
Griffiths had already come to the attention of heritage organisations when he granted permission in December for the building of six turbines at Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire, near the site of the battle of Naseby, the decisive clash of the English civil war in 1645.
In that ruling, Griffiths admitted: “There are many heritage assets in the surrounding area, including listed buildings, registered historic parks and gardens, and a registered battlefield, that the wind turbines proposed would be seen from and . . . would affect . . . those heritage assets.”;
The decision prompted Chris Heaton-Harris, the Tory MP whose constituency includes the battlefield, to send a letter to David Cameron signed by 100 fellow MPs expressing concern over wind farm development.
Describing Griffiths’s ruling in the Naseby case as “provocative” and “anti-democratic”, he said: “Mr Griffiths has got a number of his most recent decisions completely wrong.”