Something in the Air: Shropshire heritage triumphs over the turbine

Double celebrations for William Cash as he celebrates both his recent nuptials and a big win for localism and the Shropshire landscape.

Yesterday, a major democratic step was made towards saving the beauty of the Shropshire Hills. The South Shropshire Plannng Committee, chaired by Cecilia Motley, stood their ground and – despite a recommendation from planning officials to recommend permission to build a giant industrial wind turbine at The Hills, near Bridgnorth, that would desecrate the local historic landscape – voted to refuse planning permission.

10823595146_2dd748ecc9_bAs reported in the Shropshire Star, Conservative Councillor Robert Tindall – who voted against the application  – said: “I am not against wind turbines per se but something of this height will seriously change the landscape of this very lovely part of south Shropshire.”

The vote was an overall majority of six against and three in favour. As the Shropshire Star added: “The decision raised a round of applause from the packed public audience at the meeting.”

The news get better for Localism. The day before a local farmer who lives close to Monkhopton completely withdrew his application for a smaller wind turbine in the beautiful countryside of the Corvedale close to Bourton that had caused great anger within the local community as the farmer wholly failed to understand that although he may own a small amount of land in the Shropshire Hils, he does not own the landscape. The landscape is owned by all of us and the very point of Localism is for the “community” to express its democratic voice.

Well that voice has certainly now been heard, largely thanks to the extremely hard work of my colleague Dr Chris Douglas, co-chairman of the Stop Bridgnorth Wind Farm campaign. His work, and that of our committee members has shown that councillors will listen to the voice of community – and that the democracy can win out in the planning system, despite the odds often being stacked against small villages and parishes who do not have anything like the resources to match unscrupulpus developers and farmers who are driven soley by self-interest.

The Upton Cressett wind turbine application by farmer Clive Millington at Criddon, Upton Cressett, is likely to be voted on next. One sincerely hopes that the voice of Shropshire and the local community will be heard again by the South Shropshire Planning Committee. Only this time the very serious damage to the “historic setting” of the Grade I hamlet of Upton Cressett should prove to be a “showstopper” that encourages the planning officials at Shropshire Council – led by case officer Graham French, on advice from Dr Andy Wigley, head of the historic environment team  – to recommend refusal of the permission when it comes to a vote.

Thankfully, there is now a very good High Court legal precedent from a similar planning case in Norfolk, involving protecting the historic setting of two Grade I historic properties from turbine desecration, that provide Shropshire Council with solid reason to recommend refusal on the grounds of the gravity of the potential damage to the setting of Upton Cressett, where the proposed turbines are just 1600 metres from The Gatehouse (Grade I) and entrance to the Hall (Grade I) and the Grade I Norman church. Heritage tourism – as well as equestrian tourism – is essential to the Shropshire economy.

The renowned heritage expert Jeremy Musson, former architectual editor of Country Life and one of the country’s leading heritage planning authorities has recently written to Shropshire Council to say that almost exactly the same conditions with regards to heritage protection exist at Upton Cressett as in Norfolk.

The result of this important High Court ruling that overturned a Planning Inspector’s appeal decision is that it sends a very clear message to Shropshire Council that Grade 1 historic settings of national significance – also important to the local economy – need to be protected by the NPPF.

The industrialisation of the ancient landscape around Upton Cressett and the wider area around Bridgnorth would be devastating to the appeal of the area for walkers, riders and the thousands who visit Upton Cressett each year as way of taking a magical ‘step back in time’ to enjoy the unspoilt beauty of one of the county’s best loved and acclaimed heritage beauty spots.

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About Upton Cressett Hall

‘A splendid example of the English manor house at its most evocative’ Country Life

’The gatehouse is an Elizabethan gem’ Simon Jenkins, England’s Thousand Best Houses

‘A remarkable Tudor house of brick’ Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England

‘One of the finest Tudor houses in Britain’ Shropshire Magazine

Upton Cressett Hall is a moated Elizabethan brick manor with historic gatehouse and Norman church set in an unspoilt and romantic landscape near the Shropshire market town of Bridgnorth in the heart of PG Wodehouse’s Blandings country. The house has long been admired by architectural critics ranging from Nikolaus Pevsner to Simon Jenkins, who included Upton Cressett in his acclaimed ‘The Thousand Best Houses of Britain’, describing it as an ‘Elizabethan gem’.

The manor was the historic home of the Cressett family for centuries, before the Cash family began living there in 1971. Following restoration work, Upton Cressett is now open to the public and for group visits. The property is also available for events, concerts and filming. A special production of Much Ado About Nothing was performed to mark the re-opening of the Hall. In 2012, the Hall and grounds will be used for events during both the Wenlock Poetry Festival and the bi-annual Wenlock Festival.

Upton Cressett Hall was named the winner of ‘Hidden Gem’ at the 2011 Hudson’s Heritage Awards, the Oscars of the heritage world recognising ‘The Nation’s Finest Heritage’. The awards were announced on 1st December at the Grosvenor Square Hotel and presented by Norman Hudson OBE, chairman of the judges. The other judges were Lady Lucinda Lambton and Jeremy Musson, former architectural editor of Country Life. Upton Cressett was also short-listed for Best Restoration and Best Accommodation. The only other historic house to receive three nominations is the Elizabethan stately home of Burghley.

The two year restoration of Upton Cressett was the cover story of the October 2011 issue of Shropshire Magazine. In the article, editor Neil Thomas, describes Upton Cressett as ‘one of the finest Tudor houses in the Britain and a true Shropshire gem’. William Cash will be writing a new column for Shropshire Magazine from May.

The Gatehouse is available for luxury mini-breaks and private let. Featuring two octagonal turrets, thick Tudor brick walls, an oak carved spiral staircase, and rare sixteenth century ornamental plasterwork, as well as all modern comforts, the Gatehouse is one of England’s most secluded and luxuriously appointed romantic hideaways.

Prince Rupert of the Rhine took refuge in the Gatehouse whilst escaping the Parliamentary army; others who have stayed at Upton Cressett throughout its remarkable history include the young King Edward V, one of the Princes in the Tower, on the way from Ludlow to the Tower of London in 1483, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, novelist Sebastian Faulks and Elizabeth Hurley.

The Gatehouse is also used by the Upton Cressett Foundation, a writers’ retreat for novelists, academics, playwrights, biographers and historians to shut themselves away for up to six weeks – by invitation – to make creative progress with a project in a quiet and uniquely remote historic setting. Often compared to the Tower at Sissinghurst, where Vita Sackville-West built her library and wrote her many books, the Gatehouse has an inspirational environment.

uptoncressetthall.co.uk

Image of a Shropshire sunset by Jonathan Stonehouse (CC BY 2.0)

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