Thomas Hardy knew about the meaning of Brown in Dorset landscapes. The Return of the Native starts
“A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching the time of twilight, and the vast tract of unenclosed wild known as Egdon Heath embrowned itself moment by moment. Overhead the hollow stretch of whitish cloud shutting out the sky was as a tent which had the whole heath for its floor.”
This was of course parodied to perfection by Monty Python in their novel-writing from Dorchester sketch, possibly the only time our little town was mentioned by the pythonists.
It shows two things very clearly. One is that Rampisham Down is entirely covered by unimproved grassland. The “brown” colour is not related to it being a “brownfield site” despite Local District Councillor Tony Frost’s witty suggestion that it is. It looks brown because the acid grassland plants that grow there have grown ungrazed for a few years (the years during which it has been owned by British Solar Renewables). When grasses and herbs in a wildlife-rich grassland grow without grazing, they flower and then the leaves die back to a brown colour. A grazed grassland would still retain some shades of brown, unless it was so heavily grazed that all the leaves and flower stalks are grazed off.
Note in this photo how green are the fields adjacent to Rampisham Down, again taken by drone for BSR.
These fields are green because they have plenty of artificial Nitrogen fertiliser applied to them, to make the grass grow more quickly. These are known as Improved grasslands, whereas Rampisham is an Unimproved grassland. Improved grassland sounds like it is better than Unimproved grassland. This is because Improved grasslands can feed more livestock than Unimproved ones.
Unimproved grasslands are much richer in wildlife and archaeology, as well as locking up twice as much Carbon in their soils, helping to clean pollutants from drinking water, and providing homes for pollinators such as Bumble Bees, as well as providing many other benefits to people. More information on the value of Unimproved Grasslands can be found in this report.
The second point is that the drone photo shows clearly that Rampisham Down is not a Brownfield Site. Brownfield, also known as Previously Developed Land is defined by the NPPF as:
While the buildings at Rampisham are clearly developed, they only take up a tiny proportion of the whole site (and are excluded from the SSSI). The other permanent structures include the concrete platforms for the masts. These are each roughly 10x10m, so for 35 masts the total area is 0.35ha. The ducting which used to take electricity to the masts also occupies perhaps 1 hectare in total.
Now take a look at what BSR intend to do at Rampisham, and compare this with their photo showing their “test solar panel arrays”. The whole area of Rampisham covered by that photo will be covered in solar arrays.
If they get away with it, at that point Rampisham will certainly be transformed into an Industrial Brownfield Site.