Legal challenge launched against landmark wind farm decision

The National Trust, English Heritage and East Northamptonshire Council are today making a joint legal challenge against planning permission for a wind farm that would be built within 1 mile of a Grade I listed building and registered park and garden.

The proposal would see four 126.5m wind turbines built within the setting of the Lyveden New Bield site – a place described by the Planning Inspector who granted approval for the plans as “probably the finest example of an Elizabethan garden [with a] cultural value of national if not international significance”.

After planning permission was initially refused by the local Council, the development was given consent on appeal in March 2012.  The three organisations started legal proceedings on 23 April under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990*.  It is extremely rare for English Heritage and the National Trust to pursue legal action and it is the first time that East Northamptonshire Council has ever taken a case to this level.

Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of the National Trust said, “We fully support renewable energy and have made our own commitment to halve our dependence on fossil fuels by 2020.  We have also backed a number of wind proposals where scale and setting have been considered appropriate.

“However, the decision to allow a development of this size so close to one of the country’s most treasured historic places is both damaging to Lyveden New Bield and could have serious implications for other heritage sites across the UK.

“It is because of the threat this decision poses to the setting of all our valued historic sites that we, along with English Heritage and the local Council, have taken the significant step of making an appeal to the Administrative Court.”

As a Grade I listed building, registered park and garden and scheduled ancient monument, Lyveden New Bield’s unfinished Elizabethan lodge and gardens have the highest heritage designation possible.  The wind turbines would be prominent, modern, intrusive structures in a landscape that still evokes the character of Lyveden New Bield’s historic Rockingham Forest surroundings.  The turbines would be visible from almost everywhere on the property and would severely affect the appreciation of this wonderful place.

Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said, “We were extremely disappointed by the Inspector’s decision to allow the wind farm.  Our challenge to his decision is not simply about the balance of professional judgement between heritage and renewable energy.  The Inspector did not adequately take into account the contribution that Lyveden New Bield’s historic and rural surroundings make to its immense significance.

“In our view, therefore, he failed to have ‘special regard’ for the desirability of preserving the special interest of the listed building and its setting which the law requires of him as decision-maker in this case.

“This decision is highly unusual and must not be allowed to become the benchmark for future wind-energy developments.”

Leader of East Northamptonshire Council, Steven North added, “East Northamptonshire Council is committed to the use of renewable energy sources wherever it is practicable but not to the detriment of the historic landscape.  It is regrettable that it has come to this, but we fully support this legal challenge and will be working closely with the National Trust and English Heritage to protect this heritage site.”

*Section 288 provides a legal right for people who are affected by a planning permission to apply to the courts for redress if they can show that the decision maker made an erroneous decision in law.  A challenge brought under section 288 is designed to put under judicial scrutiny the way in which the decision maker reached their decision rather than the merits of the decision.

Further information

1) Planning

Further information on the planning application (case reference 2156757) can be found at:  www.pcs.planningportal.gov.uk/pcsportal/ViewCase.asp?caseid=2156757&coid=32833

The National Trust’s response to the planning appeal can be seen here:

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/press/press-releases/view-page/item772786/

2) National Trust energy policy

  • As a trusted guardian of places of ‘historic interest and natural beauty’ the National Trust has a fundamental duty to do all we can to avoid any inappropriate development that could compromise special landscapes.  This means that we will always encourage and participate in a robust and rigorous debate about the right locations and scale for any energy infrastructure that might affect our land.
  • We believe that there is a place for wind in a mix of renewable technologies which we must pursue to help us meet the country’s low carbon energy needs and thereby tackle climate change.  But each wind proposal should be located, designed and on a scale that avoids compromising the special qualities of its locality.
  • In February 2010 we launched our ‘Grow Your Own’ strategy with ambitious targets to halve our dependence on fossil fuels by 2020.  We are using a wide range of technology, including where appropriate wind, to reach these targets.

The National Trust’s position on wind energy can be viewed at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/what-we-do/big-issues/energy-and-climate-change/our-views/view-page/item749709/

3) Lyveden New Bield

Lyveden New Bield is one of England’s oldest garden landscapes and features an unfinished Tudor garden lodge, steeped in Catholic symbolism. Work on Lyveden stopped suddenly in 1605 when its creator, Sir Thomas Tresham, died and his son became embroiled in the Gunpowder Plot. The Elizabethan moats, mounts and terracing have been restored and the orchard re-planted with period varieties.

4) English Heritage

English Heritage is the Government’s statutory advisor on the historic environment.  Our guidance on setting and views can be found here http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/advice/advice-by-topic/setting-and-views/

Our advice on wind energy can be found here http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/advice/advice-by-topic/climate-change/renewable-energy/wind-energy/

We provide advice on how best to conserve England’s heritage for the benefit of everyone.  While most of England’s heritage is in private hands, we work with all who come into contact with it – landowners, businesses, planners and developers, national, regional and local government, the Third Sector, local communities and the general public –  to help them understand, value, care for and enjoy England’s historic environment.

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One thought on “Legal challenge launched against landmark wind farm decision

  1. Pingback: Protection for Lyveden “one step closer” thanks to High Court windfarm decision | National Trust Press Office

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