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Heritage bodies in legal challenge to wind farm plans

Heritage organisations have launched a rare legal challenge to proposed wind farm plans close to Lyveden New Bield.

English Heritage and the National Trust have joined East Northamptonshire Council, which originally refused planning permission for the four 127-metre high turbines, in opposition to the scheme.

The three organisations have started legal proceedings under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which provides a legal right for people who are affected by a planning permission to apply to the courts for redress.

They will have to show that the decision-maker has made an “erroneous decision in law” to be successful.

The planning inspector last month backed an appeal by Barnwell Manor Wind Energy to be allowed to install the turbines near the Grade I-listed heritage site, despite acknowledging it was probably the finest surviving example of an Elizabethan garden.

However, he ruled the damage would not be substantial and was outweighed by the benefits of the scheme in meeting wider renewable energy targets.

English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley said: “We were extremely disappointed by the inspector’s decision to allow the wind farm. The inspector did not adequately take into account the contribution that Lyveden New Bield’s historic and rural surroundings make to its immense significance.

“In our view, therefore, he failed to have ‘special regard’ for the desirability of preserving the special interest of the listed building and its setting which the law requires of him as decision-maker in this case.”

Dame Fiona Reynolds, director general of the National Trust, said: “We fully support renewable energy and have made our own commitment to halve our dependence on fossil fuels by 2020.

“We have also backed a number of wind proposals where scale and setting have been considered appropriate.

“However, the decision to allow a development of this size so close to one of the country’s most treasured historic places is both damaging to Lyveden New Bield and could have serious implications for other heritage sites across the UK.”

East Northamptonshire Council leader Steven North said the council was committed to the use of renewable energy wherever it was practicable but “not to the detriment of the historic landscape”.

He said: “It is regrettable it has come to this, but we fully support this legal challenge and will be working closely with the National Trust and English Heritage.”