(Above) Typical grassland flora
Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) and the Wildlife Trusts nationally have launched an urgent online campaign to ask Eric Pickles to ‘call in’ for a public inquiry about the decision to approve planning permission to build a solar park development on a legally protected wildlife site in west Dorset.
West Dorset District Council’s planning committee voted to approve the application on Thursday 15th January 2015, despite objections from Dorset Wildlife Trust and Natural England. The 72 ha (178 acre) site was designated an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific I) in August 2013, and is one of the largest sites of lowland acid grassland remaining in England.
Dorset Wildlife Trust is not against renewable energy
Chief Executive of Dorset Wildlife Trust, Dr Simon Cripps, said, “Dorset Wildlife Trust is not against renewable energy development, but we will oppose it on sites where the development could cause harm to the environment. Rampisham Down is already legally protected, and there is an alternative site across the road, which we would support. If this development were to go ahead, it could put other SSSI’s in the UK under threat. It is vital the Government respects the legislation that protects our valuable wildlife. We now need the full support of the public to get this decision re-considered by the Minister, Eric Pickles, but we don’t have long.”
If these sites are lost, we lose a piece of our natural heritage
Tony Whitehead, speaking for the RSPB in the South West said; "Rampisham is part of a national network of protected wildlife sites. These are the best of the best, the natural equivalent of Stonehenge or our great cathedrals. As we provide the highest levels of protection for places like Stonehenge, so we must for places like Rampisham. Yet here, and also currently at Lodge Hill in Kent, these unique places are under threat. If they are lost, we lose a piece of our national heritage. For this reason we strongly urge the Secretary of State to call in the application and consider the matter in a public inquiry."
Any development at Rampisham will set a precedent
Chief Executive of Butterfly Conservation, Dr Martin Warren, said, “The SSSI network is fundamental to the future of butterflies and most other special wildlife in the UK. Any development at Rampisham will set a precedent that could damage this vital system and make it impossible to meet our international obligations to save biodiversity.”
Sign up and help save Rampisham!
Visit the campaign page to send a message to the Minister, and help change the fate for Rampisham Down’s precious wildlife. Use #saverampisham on twitter, or visit facebook.com/dorsetwildlife for live updates and to share our campaign with others.
Notes to Editor
For more information please contact Sally Welbourn at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01305 264620 or 07436 158 325.
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Dorset Wildlife Trust works to champion wildlife and natural places, to engage and inspire people and to promote sustainable living. Founded in 1961, DWT is now the largest voluntary nature conservation organisation in Dorset, with over 25,000 members and over 40 nature reserves. Most are open daily and there are visitor centres providing a wealth of wildlife information at Brooklands Farm, Lorton Meadows, Kingcombe Meadows and Brownsea Island Nature Reserves, The Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and the Urban Wildlife Centre at Upton Heath Nature Reserve. DWT plays a key role in dealing with local environmental issues and leads the way in establishing the practices of sustainable development and engaging new audiences in conservation, particularly in the urban areas.
On 3 March 2014, Natural England confirmed Rampisham Down in Dorset as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its special grassland and heathland habitats. This type of grassland supports adder, skylark and a rich variety of butterflies and other invertebrates. Located 11 miles North West of Dorchester, Rampisham Down, formerly a BBC World Service transmission station, supports the largest area of lowland acid grassland found in Dorset and is one of the largest areas of its type in the country. The site also supports small stands of lowland heathland and transitional grass and heath plant communities. The large size of this site, which has for the most part escaped any modern-day agricultural improvement, is particularly unusual. The extensive acid grassland is typically dominated by fine grasses, such as common bent, sweet vernal-grass, red and sheep’s-fescue and, more locally, heath-grass; as well as frequent field wood-rush. Characteristic broad-leaved herbaceous plants typical of the unimproved acid grassland include tormentil, heath bedstraw, pignut and birds-foot-trefoil. Less frequent, but still present in many areas, are heath milkwort, common dog-violet, mouse-ear-hawkweed and heath speedwell. Of special interest are stands of ‘chalk’ acid grassland with additional grasses, such as quaking and downy oat-grass and herbs of dwarf thistle and ladies bedstraw.
Committee agenda 13 November 2014
The application site extends to approximately 76 hectares and is completely contained within the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The majority of the site was notified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on 22 August 2013. The site was acquired by the BBC in 1939 and was one of the main World Service transmission sites until its closure in October 2011. There’s more information on Item 1, page five, point 6 for ‘other representation’ or click here.
1‘Calling-in’ a planning application
‘Calling-in’ of a planning application refers to the power of the Secretary of State to take the decision-making power on a particular planning application out of the hands of the local planning authority for his own determination. This can be done at any time during the planning application process, up to the point at which the local planning authority actually makes the decision. If a planning application is called-in, there will be a public inquiry chaired by a planning inspector, or lawyer, who will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State can choose to reject these recommendations if he wishes and will take the final decision.