Dorset Wildlife Trust has written to the National Planning Casework Unit to ask that the Secretary of State issues a direction requiring West Dorset District Council to refer the Rampisham Down solar farm application to him for his own determination.
Known as a "call-in" you can read the background to this application and the issues it raises here.
A copy of our letter is available here.
As stated in our letter, we believe that:
"Rampisham Down SSSI is a nationally important wildlife site, notified for its lowland acid grassland and grass-heath habitats. It is one of the largest areas of this type of grassland left in England. The proposal would be likely to impact adversely on the SSSI in a number of ways, principally through damage during the construction phase, shading and other microclimate effects arising from the over 100,000 solar panels covering 55% of the SSSI, but also through impacts on the ability to manage the grassland appropriately to maintain its ecological value. Yet West Dorset District Council resolved to grant approval for this application, without considering the tests set by the NPPF for SSSIs, including consideration of alternatives, and they also treated the site as previously developed land when only 14% if the site was previously developed, and despite the NPPF requirement not to do so where the land has high environmental value. Given the scale of the proposed development in relation to the SSSI, the potential implications for the national network of SSSIs, it is clear that the decision on the application should be made by the Secretary of State, following independent scrutiny by an Inspector at a public inquiry."
On Friday the Department for Communities and local Governement (DCLG) wrote to West Dorset Council, asking them not to grant permission on this application without specific authorisation. We now hope the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, takes the decision to call in the application and puts the matter to a public inquiry.
How you can help
If you agree with this, please let the DCLG know via our e-action.