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Nuclear land deal leaves Lady Gass '£50m richer'

By Bridgwater Times  |  Posted: November 17, 2011

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THE Queen's personal representative in Somerset is reported to be £50 million better off after selling a slice of her magnificent estate to be part of the site for a nuclear power station.

Lady Elizabeth Gass, who is Lord Lieutenant of Somerset, is reported by the Sunday Times to have become a beneficiary of Britain's dash for nuclear power with the sale of 230 acres of Quantock Hills land to EDF.

The 71-year-old inherited her ancestral home, Fairfield House near Stogursey in 1967 when she was working as a maths teacher.

Agricultural land in Somerset was said to fetch up to £7,000 an acre, but Lady Gass received £200,000 on average per acre, according to the Sunday Times.

The sale was reported to be so profitable because the coastal reaches of the Fairfield Estate lie directly to the west of Hinkley Point power station, on land earmarked for two new reactors.

The price she obtained from EDF is understood to have been further driven by some of the land being designated for a 'campus,' known as the buffer zone.

Years before Hinkley C was designated by the Government as one of the eight sites suitable for nuclear use, Lady Gass, was said to have sold wind farm rights on a small parcel of land for up to 12 turbines.

These were snapped up by EDF in 2008 and the firm now has to pay her a premium for the change of use, the Sunday Times reported.

The decision of the magistrate, who was a former High Sheriff of Somerset, and other landowners to sell a combined area of 400 acres has polarised opinion in Stogursey.

Allan Searle, 75, chairman of the parish council, told the newspaper: "There are people who came here to retire and say that now there's a massive project underway which they don't want. But other people are saying that in their position they would do likewise.

"There were some locals who didn't want a wind farm there because of the effect on the landscape. If you look at what's happened since, you could say: 'Well, now see what you've got!'"

Sholto Moger, land management partner at Strutt and Parker in Salisbury, who handles Lady Gass's business affairs, told reporters he could not comment on the deal.

EDF declined to comment.

Lady Gass, who lives in a part-Elizabethan property that has been home to her ancestors for more than 800 years, has no children. Her husband, a former governor of the Solomon Islands, died in 1983.

She inherited the Fairfield estate and gave up teaching at the age of 26 when her uncle died.

Lady Gass was unavailable for comment.

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