Plans to build a new housing estate just 300 yards from the Grade I listed Elizabethan Wolfeton House have been turned down by a planning inspector.

The developers, Land Value Alliances, had appealed against the decision by the former West Dorset District Council to refuse permission for 120 houses on the 15-acre site south of Westleaze Road on the edge of Charminster.

Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes said that “to destroy the context and setting of a great and ancient house is really to destroy the house”.

Lord Fellowes said in a letter to planners at West Dorset District Council he could not “stay silent when heritage is under threat”.

Land Value had also implied a possible eastern extension that protesters feared could see the number of homes double to 240.

The archaeological remains of the deserted medieval village of Wolfeton also lie within the site plan, though they would have been excluded from the housing development.

Refusing permission for the development, planning inspector Zoe Hill said the “public benefits of the scheme do not outweigh the harm to the heritage assets in this case and particularly the harm to the setting of Wolfeton House”.

In the 24-page decision, she said: “I conclude that there would be permanent and persisting harm to the setting of Wolfeton House from the irreversible change of use of this agricultural land and from the visual intrusion caused by the proposed housing. This would harm the special interest of Wolfeton House.

“Given the exceptional national importance of Wolfeton House, I am in no doubt that this is a matter of considerable importance and weight… the proposal would not preserve the setting of Wolfeton House but would harm it.

“Added to that harm is the harm to Charminster Conservation Area and the non-designated deserted medieval village.”

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