(Above) View of Rampisham Down by Tony Bates (below) Lousewort on Rampisham and other typical grassland flora.
Planning permission to build a large solar station on a protected wildlife site, Rampisham Down in west Dorset, has been put on hold by the Department for Communities and Local Government, under the Town and Country Planning Order 1995.
West Dorset District Council approved planning permission for a 25MW solar station on the 72ha (178 acres) protected SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), Rampisham Down on 15th January 2015. In response, Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) and the Wildlife Trusts nationally launched a campaign to urge the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles to ‘call in’ the decision, and decide for himself whether the development should go ahead, with the aid of a public inquiry.
We have been overwhelmed by public support
Chief Executive of Dorset Wildlife Trust, Dr Simon Cripps said, “We have been overwhelmed by the amount of public support we’ve had, with nearly 7,000 people sending their letters to Eric Pickles, asking him to ‘call in’ the decision. It is good news that the process of issuing planning permission has been halted for the time being, but we need to continue putting pressure on the Government to get this perverse decision over-turned. This is not only of local concern, but would also have national implications if a development such as this is built on a highly protected SSSI wildlife site, when other sites are available. DWT supports solar power, just not on an SSSI.”
One of the largest sites of lowland acid grassland remaining in the UK
Rampisham Down is one of the largest sites of lowland acid grassland remaining in the UK. It supports a variety of wildlife, including adders, skylarks and a rare group of plants and fungi.
Eric Pickles will consider the public views, along with other relevant information
The holding direction on planning permission prevents West Dorset District Council from granting planning permission without special authorisation. The Secretary of State, Eric Pickles will consider the public views, along with other relevant information to decide whether or not to call in the application for development on Rampisham Down.
We still need support!
To submit your letter of support to save Rampisham down, visit our 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.
Working for a secure future for Dorset’s wildlife enriching the quality of life
Follow us on Twitter @dorsetwildlife and facebook.com/dorsetwildlife
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' 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.