A couple have won a landmark legal battle to have 10 wind turbines taken down because they spoil the view from their dream home in France.
In a judgement which could have widespread implication across Europe, including Britain, the husband and wife successfully argued that the 360ft high structures ruined their quality of life.
As well as agreeing that the turbines ‘spoiled the view’, judges noted the ‘groaning and whistling’ and ‘unsightliness of white and red flashing lights’.
Now the company responsible has to take them down, and pay large fines and legal expenses.
It is seen as a major victory for those campaigning against wind farms, and those who believe their spread is destroying both beloved countryside and cultural heritages.
Erik Wallecan, a retired vet, and his wife Ingrid bought the 18th Century Chateau de Flers in the Pas-de-Calais, in northern France, in 1996, after moving from nearby Belgium.
Their restoration of the house and its 42 acres became a labour of love, and they also turned adjoining buildings into a guesthouse.
But when, in 2007, the ten wind turbines went up, they were horrified to suddenly lose their ‘bucolic and rustic’ view.
They first spotted them on returning from a trip to Anvers, in Belgium, with Mr Wallecan telling Le Monde: ‘The first evening when we arrived in the chateau after their construction, there was a firework display and we wondered where these lights were coming from.
‘We were not even aware that these projects existed.
‘Three huge turbines are visible when gazing across the gardens from the bay windows in the chateau’s grand salon.
‘Every day we have to suffer the visual and noise pollution. I can see the turbines from everywhere in the house, from every room.’
The Wallecans launched a civil action against La Compagnie du Vent (The Wind Company), a subsidiary of the energy giant GDF Suez, which runs the turbines.
Judges in Montpellier ruled that the structures blighted the countryside, causing the ‘total disfigurement of a bucolic and rustic landscape’.
The company was ordered to pay the Wallecans the equivalent of £31,500 in damages and to remove the wind farm within four months or face a fine of £450 per day per turbine.
La Compagnie du Vent said it would appeal the judgement, but Philippe Bodereau, the Wallecans’ lawyer said: ‘People are often too scared to take action and suffer in silence.
‘Today we are saying no – justice has been done and this shows all those who suffer wind farms with a sense of powerlessness that the fight is not vain, that one can have one’s life respected – one’s right to peace.’
In August, a French court banned a local council from erecting turbines near the Mont Saint Michel abbey in Normandy, after Unesco warned they could cost France’s most visited provincial tourist site its World Heritage status.
A plan to build a vast offshore wind farm within view of several Normandy D-Day beaches has also been condemned as ‘an insult to the memory of the thousands who died there’.
Britain is a world leader in wind farm technology, with new installations continually being erected across the country, often in areas which provoke criticism.