The estuary view from which Dylan Thomas gained inspiration for some of his most famous works has been preserved after a high court judge threw out plans to build a towering wind turbine opposite the late poet’s famous home.
Carmarthenshire county council had approved plans for the 147ft turbine opposite the early 19th century Boathouse in the seaside town of Laugharne, where Thomas worked in the Writing Shed looking across the Taf estuary and the Gower.
Campaigners launched a legal battle to save the view, backed by the poet’s granddaughter Hannah Ellis, 36, who described as “completely absurd” plans for the turbine near the popular west Wales tourist site.
The poem Over Sir John’s Hill describes the view and birds of prey seen by Thomas from his balcony, while Poem on his Birthday is said to have been inspired by the wildlife of the area, including egrets, lapwings, herons, oystercatchers, seals and otters. Thomas is also thought to have penned Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night and the play Under Milk Wood at the property.
A judicial review in Cardiff heard councillors had not visited the Boathouse before giving the project the green light. The council claimed that the turbine, which was to be sited just over a mile away from the Writing Shed, would be painted “off-white” to blend in with the sky.
But judge Andrew Gilbart, QC, said it was “impossible” to suggest it would not cause a significant impact on the landscape, and found in favour of the campaigners, ordering the council to pay £21,275. The council can appeal and is considering if it will.
Campaigner Fred Davies, 62, who lives near Llansteffan where the hilltop turbine was to be built, had sought the judicial review which was funded by crowdsourcing and local fundraising events. He said: “It was to be the size of a 10-storey office block.
“When you are in Laugharne, in this little sheltered community, the Llareggub of Under Milk Wood, at 150 feet you see it very prominently. A single huge turbine would just change the whole thing. It changes it entirely. No longer is it this lovely place with this beautiful iconic view that Dylan appreciated and that all the tourists come to see”, said Davies, a hi-fi speaker designer.
It was an “absurd” planning decision, he said, especially as it was taken during the late poet’s centenary in 2014.
Laugharne community council’s clerk, Chris Delaney, said the town was “absolutely elated”. He said: “It was an appalling decision which would have impacted on probably one of the most iconic views in west Wales. It is a place of international renown. Hundreds of thousands of people come here because of Dylan Thomas and right in the middle of it they were going to put a huge turbine.”
He said planning officers had visited the site where the turbine was to be built and looked out across to Laugharne. “We told them to come and look it from the other side, but they decided not to,” he said. “That view has been unchanged for hundreds of years. Dylan Thomas stood on his balcony and that was the view he saw and that inspired him. We are delighted at the ruling. Obviously the judge thought it was a very poor decision too.”
The council had agreed plans by a local farmer for the turbine even though the planning committee had been advised by the council’s landscape officer that it would be a “discordant element and an alien intrusion within an historic landscape of exceptional sensitivity”, the judge was told.
National Trust Wales had objected to the plans which, it said, “would destroy an iconic view that had survived untouched for generations”.
Thomas’s granddaughter had said of the plans: “To imagine a wind turbine there is very upsetting. From a personal point of view I scattered mum’s ashes at the Boathouse. We put a bench there, we sit there and it’s my peaceful time.”
The house is now a tearoom and art gallery attracting thousands of visitors every year.
Eifion Bowen, Carmarthenshire county council’s head of planning, said the authority was considering details of the judgment. “A final decision on whether to appeal will be taken after detailed consideration and reflection of the judgment”, he said.