A HIGH Court ruling means millions of pounds generated by the sale of land around Blenheim Palace for housing will be ploughed into the conservation of the estate – instead of propping up the palace.

Following yesterday’s decision, 70 per cent of profits from the sale of land east of Woodstock earmarked for 300 homes will go to the Blenheim Palace Heritage Foundation.

The foundation, established in 2016, aims to pump £40m into conserving the UNESCO World Heritage Site over the next 10 years.

Witney Gazette:

The ruling comes after West Oxfordshire District Council granted Blenheim Estate outline planning permission to build the development in May.

Before yesterday’s decision, 70 per cent of the money from the sale would go to conserving the palace rather than the estate.

Now Judge Matthew Marsh has said there are ‘compelling reasons’ why the trustees should be able to get 70 per cent of the cash themselves for conserving the lakes, woodlands and fields.

The main beneficiaries of the family trust are the heir presumptive to the Dukedom of Marlborough, Lord Blandford, and his younger brother, Caspar, 10.

Only the trustees and David and Maximilian Gelber, grandsons of the 11th Duke who established the trust, could benefit.

Judge Marsh argued the decision would ‘hugely improve’ the trust’s financial position and ‘benefit future generations of the family’.

David Gelber told the court of the family’s commitment to maintaining ‘a place of immense natural beauty and significant historic and architectural interest’.

He added: “My understanding is that the members of our family have always felt a moral obligation to support Blenheim as an asset of the nation from which our family have derived significant benefit.

“We are therefore keen that the foundation should have sufficient funds to ensure that the World Heritage Site management plan can be carried out for the public benefit.”

The homes will be built in line with Blenheim Estate’s new affordable housing policy, with rental levels priced at 60 per cent of the current market rate.

Working under guidelines established by The Prince’s Foundation, the estate will retain full ownership on socially rented homes.

Another 169 homes are being built in Long Hanborough, leading West Oxfordshire district councillor Merilyn Davies to last month criticise the policy for creating a ‘feudal situation’.

The trustees had to go to court because they had no power to reach an agreement with the council that would see profits from the land sale go to the foundation.

Judge Marsh granted the trustees power to enter into a deed of covenant with the council so that 70 per cent of the land sale profits will go to the foundation.

The court heard no precise value has yet been put on the development land, which will depend on the number of affordable homes required by planners.