Court ruling halts British wind farm

March 13, 2013 at 12:03 AM
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LONDON, March 13 (UPI) -- British preservationists say they have won a key legal battle in the effort to fight the placement of onshore wind farms near historic sites.

London's High Court last week ruled in favor of conservationists and a local council that opposed planning approvals given to a proposed wind farm in Northamptonshire.

The site at Barnwell Manor, about 100 miles north of London at Sudborough, England, is less than mile away from Lyveden New Bield, a 17th-century lodge hailed as one of the finest surviving examples of a moated Elizabethan garden in the country.

Opponents waged a five-year battle against the plans by Barnwell Manor Wind Energy Ltd., to place four 413-foot wind turbines on the farmland, which is owned by the Duke of Gloucester, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.

They claimed the turbines would be clearly visible from the historic, never-completed manor and would spoil its historic experience.

Following the plans' rejection by the East Northamptonshire District Council, the developer appealed and in March 2012 public inquiry inspector Paul Griffiths overruled its decision and allowed the construction of four turbines, the Northampton Chronicle and Echo reported.

That led to a lawsuit filed by the council. The suit was joined by English Heritage -- a quasi-governmental agency dedicated to preserving Britain's monuments and historic sites -- and the independent National Trust in an unprecedented move.

The agencies joined the suit because, they said, the case had national implications for the government's ability to protect Britain's historic sites.

Their efforts were rewarded Friday when High Court Justice Beverley Lang ruled that Griffiths' decision was "flawed" because it failed to properly balance the need for renewable energy with laws requiring "special regard" for the settings of historic sites.

Lang ruled the approval must be quashed, meaning the application process must started over if the developer wishes to continue, the newspaper reported.

"We are very pleased with the judgment," English Heritage Chief Executive Simon Thurley said in a statement. "The effect of the proposed turbines on one of the most important, beautiful and unspoiled Elizabethan landscapes in England would be appalling. This is why we pressed this case."

"This is great news for Lyveden New Bield as its character and natural beauty can continue to be enjoyed uninterrupted," added Steven North, leader of East Northamptonshire Council.

"We believe that there is a case for wind power as part of a balanced response to our future energy needs, but applications such as this need to pay due regard to the beauty and tranquility of our unique landscapes."

The decision was blasted by RenewableUK, Britain's renewable energy trade group.

RenewableUK Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith called it "a missed opportunity, as wind farms like Barnwell Manor help to maintain clean electricity supplies for all of us.

"Although we remain aware of the need to preserve our heritage, we believe that more account should have been taken of our country's clean energy requirements."

The National Trust calls Lyveden is a "remarkable survivor of the Elizabethan age" in rural Northamptonshire.

Thomas Tresham, a Catholic British nobleman of the late Tudor and early Stuart dynasties, began work on the manor around 1604 but never completed it. It remains virtually unaltered since work stopped with his death the next year.

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