Regular readers will recall the story of Rampisham Down and the plan to build a solar farm on a nationally important grassland Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). I have written about this case many times over the past few years, and you can read the back story in those blog posts; the story starts 3 years ago here. Just search on Rampisham to find all the other ones. The story has plenty of plot twists, bizarre and slightly unbelievable characters, and some unsung heroes.
I’m delighted to say, after all this time, We Won!
Yes West Dorset District Council quietly slipped out the news before Christmas, that they have given planning permission to a smaller solar farm across the road from the proposed Rampisham Down SSSI site. As part of the permission, the developers, British Solar Renewables, have agreed to withdraw their plans for the SSSI, remove all the infrastructure they have illegally installed, and agreed a management plan with Natural England, to manage the grassland sympathetically. Wisely, the decision was delegated to the Senior Planning Officer. This avoided the Planning Committee getting involved again, after their epic bungling the first time round.
This is a great victory for conservation and something that we can celebrate at the end of this year which has been bad news on so many other fronts. All those people (over 10,000 in the end), who signed the Dorset Wildlife Trust petition to push for the original daft planning permission to be called in for a Public Inquiry, can feel that they made a difference to the outcome of this case. Most credit goes to Natural England for notifying the site in the first place (it would not have happened had it come up now) and for defending the site against immense pressure.
Happy New Year!