Rampisham Down saved from damaging solar power station development
Thursday 5th January 2017
Following two years of campaigning by Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) and work by conservation organisations including Natural England, RSPB and others* it has been announced that the Rampisham Down Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in West Dorset, will not be developed into a 25MW solar power station. The site is a legally protected area of rare acid grassland and is of national importance.
The solar panels will now be developed on an alternative site, which is not of high importance for wildlife, adjacent to Rampisham Down.
DWT launched a petition signed by over 10,000 people
In January 2015, an announcement was made stating that West Dorset District Council’s Planning Committee had decided to approve a planning application by British Solar Renewables to build a 25MW solar power plant on the former BBC transmission site, Rampisham Down SSSI. DWT launched a petition which over 10,000 people signed, asking for the decision to be re-considered by the then Communities Minister, Eric Pickles.
Planning permission for the alternative site approved in December 2016.
In June 2015 the decision was ‘called in’ by government and it was announced that a public inquiry would take place to decide the fate of the site. In the interim the developer, British Solar Renewables, had a change of heart and sought planning permission for the alternative site, which was approved on 22nd December 2016.
DWT is the first to applaud British Solar Renewables
DWT’s Chief Executive, Dr Simon Cripps said, “DWT is the first to applaud British Solar Renewables’ sensible decision not to develop their solar power station on Rampisham Down. This nationally important wildlife site will now continue to be protected. Many conservationists were concerned that if this site was built on, other SSSI designated sites in the UK would be undermined and at risk as a result.”
We'd like to thank everyone who spoke up for wildlife
We would also like to thank DWT’s members and supporters who spoke up for wildlife and helped us raise awareness to save the site from development. This is a huge victory for nature conservation, for DWT and our partners, for BSR and the solar power industry. It opens the door for future collaboration to benefit both wildlife and business.
DWT is not against renewable energy development, in the right place.
DWT recognises the need to develop renewable energy projects and has never been against solar energy development, but in this case we needed to speak up for such a special site, legally protected as a SSSI. We always said that we are supportive of the alternative location, which is far more suitable for a solar power plant.”
Notes to Editor
*Other organisations include Amphibian & Reptile Conservation, Botanical Society of the British Isles, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, CPRE, RSPB and many individuals.
More about Rampisham Down:
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.
For more information please contact Sally Welbourn at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01305 264620.
Working for a secure future for Dorset’s wildlife enriching the quality of life
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 26,500 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.
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