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People and organisations who oppose wind farms are sometimes portrayed as being anti-planet and unable to appreciate how vital it is to move towards green energy. However, there are surely cases where the damage is simply too great and should be opposed? There have been some recent instances which show English Heritage and The National Trust are working on that basis.

Remember Lyveden New Bield, where an Inspector ruled that damage to a scheduled monument’s setting caused by four 126 metre high turbines would be “less than substantial”?

Liv

EH, NT and East Northants Council have successfully appealed the decision. “The effect of the proposed turbines on one of the most important, beautiful and unspoilt Elizabethan landscapes in England would be appalling. This is why we pressed this case” said Simon Thurley. “We very much hope that this will be the end of the matter.” Indeed – and for several reasons, including the fact that the Inspector had said the damage to the asset was reduced by the temporary nature of the planning permission (25 years) and its reversibility. “Don’t worry it’s only for 25 years” is neither convincing nor consoling. There are numerous important landscapes and settings of all periods that don’t deserve wrecking on the basis it would only be for 25 years.

But apart from that does the reversal of this decision bring any further advantages? In particular, does it put a mark in the sand whereby other heritage assets of this calibre will be safe? Sadly no. It seems that precedents don’t play a part in many decisions despite English Heritage’s attempt to provide a rational basis for assessing the balance between energy needs and heritage conservation and their development of a database of previous decisions. Thus Mr Smith, deputy chief executive RenewableUK, which represents the wind farm industry, said: ‘It would be wrong to suggest that any kind of precedent has been set on this occasion, as each wind farm application is considered on a case-by-case basis”.

He seems to be saying the significance of heritage assets is open to a fresh battle every time. If true it’s a shame. It’s hard to see how it can be right for decisions to be independent of guidance through precedents or reference to any sort of “heritage significance scale”. Inspectors aren’t Gods with impeccable, consistent judgement on every “one-off” occasion, nor should the fate of high value heritage assets be dependant upon how well a particular barrister performs rather than how valuable the asset is. Put baldly, Mr Smith seems to be reassuring his wind farm entrepreneur colleagues that it’s always worth a try lads,  as sometimes you’ll get lucky!” We can only hope Inspectors will still take a sneaky peak at EH’s guidance and database of previous decisions so that consistency prevails.

[If any of the above is wrong we’d be pleased to hear from anyone qualified to explain things].

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