Ed Miliband’s barrister wife fails to overturn court ruling banning wind turbines in Duke of Gloucester’s garden
The barrister wife of Ed Miliband has failed to secure a court ruling which campaigners feared would result in historical sites across Britain being blighted by wind farms.
The Appeal Court has denied an attempt by developers, represented by Justine Thornton, to overturn a judgment which blocked four giant turbines being built on farmland in Northamptonshire belonging to the Duke of Gloucester, the Queen’s cousin.
The new ruling issued on Tuesday will be hailed as a victory for opponents of wind farms across the country after campaigners said it would determine the protections that should be given to historic sites and stately homes from inappropriate development.
Three judges supported a High Court decision to block the 400ft-high turbines. The site is just a mile from Lyveden New Bield, a Grade I listed unfinished Elizabethan lodge with a moated garden.
The initial case against the development was brought – and won – by the National Trust, English Heritage and East Northamptonshire Council last year.
English Heritage had warned that the effect of the turbines on the landscape would be”appalling”.
The Appeal Court refused an application by West Coast Energy, which was represented by Miss Thornton, to quash the ruling.
The developer had said that the High Court was wrong to overrule an inspector’s decision to allow the wind farm on land at Barnwell Manor.
It insisted the inspector had been right to conclude that visual harm that would be inflicted by the turbines on Lyveden New Bield would be “less than substantial”.
But on Tuesday the Court of Appeal rejected the developer’s application to have the High Court ruling overturned. Three judges said they “largely echo” the original decision.
Barnwell Manor Wind Energy Ltd initially applied for permission to build five wind turbines after the Duke of Gloucester, who owns the land, agreed it could be used for development.
But those requests were refused by East Northamptonshire District Council in January 2011. That decision was then appealed and permission was granted by Paul Griffiths, a planning inspector, in March 2012 for four wind turbines.
Mr Griffiths said “reasonable observers” would not be “confused” by the juxtaposition of historic buildings and a modern wind farm.
Campaigners against wind farms have nicknamed Mr Griffiths “Inspector Blight” after approving turbines in 19 of the 22 cases he has heard since May 2009, overturning decisions made by local councillors.
Last year the High Court ruled that his decision to allow the turbines at Barnwell Manor had been “flawed”. The Appeal Court’s reinforcement of that decision is likely to increase criticism of Mr Griffith’s handling of wind applications.
The ruling comes after Mark Bradshaw, the local National Trust manager, warned that if the wind farm company won the appeal it would make it easier for turbine developers to overcome the legal protection enjoyed by heritage sites.
The wind industry had denied that a single ruling could set a precedent as all applications were considered on a case-by-case basis.
In the judgment Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Lord Justice Sullivan and Lord Justice Rafferty said the inspector failed to “grapple with” the arguments by conservationists that the unspoilt setting of Lyveden New Bield was of “crucial importance” to its significant as a historical site and would be “seriously harmed” by the visual impact of the turbines.
The judgment was welcomed by English Heritage and the National Trust. Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: “We are very pleased that the Court of Appeal has underlined the vital principle of preserving important historic places like Lyveden New Bield – one of the most beautiful and unspoilt Elizabethan landscapes in England.
“We have continued to argue that the original decision by East Northamptonshire Council to refuse the application was absolutely right.
“The subsequent reasoning of the planning inspector did not pay enough attention to the significance of this exotic jewel in the landscape; to allow turbines here would have had an appalling impact on a very special place.
“This judgement reinforces the standards of decision-making that must be applied when balancing the need for sustainable energy alongside the commitment to preserve the most important aspects of the nation’s heritage.”
Dame Helen Ghosh, director general of the National Trust, said: “We are committed to renewable energy but it has to work in the landscape. The Trust aims to source 50 per cent of its energy from renewables, including wind, by 2020, but this shouldn’t be at any cost.
“Our core purpose as a conservation charity means we have a duty to protect beautiful places like Lyveden and each wind proposal should be of a scale and location that works with the special qualities of its setting.”
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