A major victory was scored over the wind farm lobby yesterday when plans to build giant turbines near one of the nation’s finest Elizabethan gardens were halted.
A High Court judge ruled that preserving historic settings was of greater importance than meeting renewable energy targets.
Mrs Justice Lang said the bid to build four 430ft high turbines at Barnwell Manor on farmland owned by the Queen’s cousin, the Duke of Gloucester, was legally flawed.
The structures would have overshadowed Lyveden New Bield in Northamptonshire, which has one of England’s oldest garden landscapes and features an unfinished 17th-century Tudor garden lodge.
The battle to save it was led by the National Trust and English Heritage, who hailed the ruling as a significant victory. Conservationists had warned approval would undermine the protection of other important sites.
Peter Nixon, National Trust director of conservation, said: ‘It is a huge judgement in favour of conserving our historic landscapes.’
The charity is opposing or monitoring around 25 applications for wind farms amid concern over their impact on the countryside or heritage sites. Mr Nixon said yesterday’s ruling would strengthen its hand in future battles.
‘It sends an important signal that areas of outstanding beauty or national significance need protecting and are unsuitable for these developments,’ he said. ‘Although it is not a legal precedent, this can only help.’
English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley said: ‘We are very pleased. The effect of the turbines on one of the most important, beautiful and unspoilt Elizabethan landscapes in England would be appalling.’
This week, Trust chairman Sir Simon Jenkins said communities were complaining almost daily of a wind farm or housing proposal in a sensitive landscape.
Mrs Justice Lang ruled that a planning inspector had failed to ‘accord special weight’ or importance to ‘the desirability of preserving the setting’. She said the case must now be reconsidered.
The Barnwell Manor wind farm was rejected by the district council in 2010 after strong local opposition. But after the developers appealed, public inquiry inspector Paul Griffiths approved it in March last year, saying green targets must come first.
Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of RenewableUK, which represents the wind farm industry, denied a precedent has been set as proposals are dealt with case by case.
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