(Above) Typical grassland flora (below) Bird’s-foot trefoil (which provides food for the common blue butterfly) © Ken Dolbear, MBE (below) Common blue butterfly © Ken Dolbear, MBE
Following months of campaigning by Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) and over 10,500 letters sent to the Secretary of State, the development of a large solar station on the SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) Rampisham Down in west Dorset, has been ‘called in’ by the Department of Communities and Local Government.
The fate of the protected site will now be taken out of the hands of West Dorset District Council, who voted to approve the planning permission, and a decision on whether or not to grant planning permission will be made by The Rt Hon. Greg Clark MP with the aid of a public inquiry.
On January 15th 2015, West Dorset District Council voted to approve an application by British Solar Renewables to build a 24-megawatt solar station on Rampisham Down. This decision was made against the advice of their own planning officer and Government wildlife body, Natural England.
Dorset Wildlife Trust is delighted with the decision to 'call it in'
DWT’s Chief Executive, Dr Simon Cripps said: “We are delighted that this decision has been called in. Together with the help of concerned partners like RSPB and CPRE, and members of the public, we have raised serious concerns that undermining the designation of a SSSI is not only harmful for Rampisham Down but also sets a worrying precedent for the protection of similar sites. In the case of Rampisham, there is an alternative site which could be used, and which we support fully. The rare habitat on this site has already been designated a priority site by ecologists and the Government. It is now in our view the Government’s responsibility to ensure this protection continues.”
DWT supports renewable energy in the right place
“DWT is supportive of renewable energy development in the right place but Rampisham Down is the wrong place for this damaging development.”
One of the largest areas of lowland acid grassland left in the UK
Rampisham Down is a 72 hectare (178 acre) site set in the heart of the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and provides habitat for rare groupings of plants and fungi, including waxcaps, harebell and orchids. It is also one of the largest areas of lowland acid grassland left in the UK, and was designated a SSSI in March 2014.
Share your views using #saverampisham
For more information about Rampisham Down and DWT’s position, visit our webpages or share your views using #saverampisham
For more information please contact Sally Welbourn at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01305 264620 or 07436158325.
Working for a secure future for Dorset’s wildlife enriching the quality of life
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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’ 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.