Campaigners battle to stop 89-home estate being built next to Dorset manor Wolfeton House


Countryside campaigners after facing a fresh fight with developers to prevent a housing estate being built next to a historic manor that inspired Thomas Hardy.

Objectors including Historic England and the Hardy Society thought they had stopped plans for 120 homes on land close to Wolfeton House, which the Victorian author visited frequently.

Last year a government planning inspector ruled against the development, stating it would cause ‘permanent harm’ to the landscape near Dorchester, Dorset.

But the developers say the inspector commented that some housing might be acceptable and have now come back with a new plan for 89 properties on the rural plot.

Countryside campaigners after facing a fresh fight with developers to prevent a housing estate being built next to the historic manor of Wolfeton House in Dorchester, Dorset

Katharine Thimbleby said: 'People in the village are upset it's starting again. We've got a lot of new development the other side of the village already so there's no need for more houses'

Katharine Thimbleby said: ‘People in the village are upset it’s starting again. We’ve got a lot of new development the other side of the village already so there’s no need for more houses’

Wolfeton House was owned for 400 years by the Trenchard family, whose name provided Hardy with inspiration for Michael Henchard, the main character in his 1886 novel The Mayor of Casterbridge.

Hardy would have walked across the green fields under threat of development to reach Wolfeton House.

The property is now owned by retired army officer Captain Nigel Thimbleby and wife Katherine, who are relatives of the Trenchard family, and the house is said to be one of the finest Grade I listed buildings in the county.

They say that any development would have a devastating impact on Hardy Country – the bucolic landscape that provides the setting for many of the writer’s works.

The previous plans that had been submitted to West Dorset district council

The revised proposal with 89 homes

A planning inspector ruled against the original development (left), stating it would cause ‘permanent harm’ to the landscape. But developers Land Value Alliances say they were told some housing might be acceptable and have come back with a plan for 89 properties (right)

Wolfeton House, circled, sits just 200 yards from the site of the proposed new housing estate

Wolfeton House, circled, sits just 200 yards from the site of the proposed new housing estate

Mrs Thimbleby said: ‘We thought it might be over after the appeal was rejected. It is a bit daunting to have to start all over again, but we will fight on, we are not going to give up.

‘We think the new plans are just as bad, they will still affect the house.

‘People in the village are upset it’s starting again. We’ve got a lot of new development the other side of the village already so there’s no need for more houses.

‘Grade I listed houses are extremely important, that’s why they’re listed Grade I, and it is really important to protect the land for the Hardy connection.’

Capt Nigel Thimbleby with his wife Katharine in historic Wolfeton House. They say that any development would have a devastating impact on Hardy Country - the bucolic landscape that provides the setting for many of the writer's works

Capt Nigel Thimbleby with his wife Katharine in historic Wolfeton House. They say that any development would have a devastating impact on Hardy Country – the bucolic landscape that provides the setting for many of the writer’s works

Alistair Chisholm, the Dorchester town crier and Hardy expert, said: ‘I’m concerned about the new plans for this site, but not surprised.

‘Our views haven’t changed since the inquiry, this development is still a threat to Wolfeton House.

‘It is one of the most interesting houses in Dorset. It may not get the visitors of Kingston Lacey but it has a fascinating story.

‘And like anything like this, the building is half of what you appreciate, the other half is the setting, which is just as important.

In a letter to the Dorset Echo, Elaine Spencer-White of the Thomas Hardy Society said: 'It is beyond the comprehension of any person to even contemplate such irreversible destruction of such an extensive area of farmland'. Pictured: Thomas Hardy in the 1890s

In a letter to the Dorset Echo, Elaine Spencer-White of the Thomas Hardy Society said: ‘It is beyond the comprehension of any person to even contemplate such irreversible destruction of such an extensive area of farmland’. Pictured: Thomas Hardy in the 1890s

‘We ought to be treasuring these places. Either you recognise how important Hardy’s countryside is and respect it or you don’t.’

In a letter to the Dorset Echo, Elaine Spencer-White of the Thomas Hardy Society said: ‘It is beyond the comprehension of any person, in this case the individual property owners and town and county planners in particular, to even contemplate such irreversible destruction of such an extensive area of farmland, which contributes to the bread-basket of the nation and is a green lung for this market town.’

The developers, Land Value Alliances, claim the houses would not significantly affect the manor house.

They say the plans have been completely re-worked and re-designed with a large reduction in the developable area and having only two-storey houses along the area closest to Wolfeton House.

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