Rampisham site from Hooke Road

Rampisham Down site from Hooke Road © Tony Bates

Planning permission to build a large solar station on a protected wildlife site, Rampisham Down in west Dorset, has been put on hold by the Department for Communities and Local Government, under the Town and Country Planning Order 1995.

West Dorset District Council approved planning permission for a 25MW solar station on the 72ha (178 acres) protected SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), Rampisham Down on 15 January 2015.  In response, Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) and the Wildlife Trusts nationally launched a campaign to urge the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles to ‘call in’ the decision, and decide for himself whether the development should go ahead, with the aid of a public inquiry.

Harebell © Ken Dolbear MBE

Harebell © Ken Dolbear MBE

Chief Executive of Dorset Wildlife Trust, Dr Simon Cripps said, “We have been overwhelmed by the amount of public support we’ve had, with nearly 7,000 people sending their letters to Eric Pickles, asking him to ‘call in’ the decision.  It is good news that the process of issuing planning permission has been halted for the time being, but we need to continue putting pressure on the Government to get this perverse decision over-turned.  This is not only of local concern, but would also have national implications if a development such as this is built on a highly protected SSSI wildlife site, when other sites are available.  DWT supports solar power, just not on an SSSI.”

Rampisham Down is one of the largest sites of lowland acid grassland remaining in the UK.  It supports a variety of wildlife, including adders, skylarks and a rare group of plants and fungi.

The holding direction on planning permission prevents West Dorset District Council from granting planning permission without special authorisation.  The Secretary of State, Eric Pickles will consider the public views, along with other relevant information to decide whether or not to call in the application for development on Rampisham Down.

To submit your letter of support to save Rampisham down, visit http://wtru.st/SaveRDown to send a message to the Minister, and help change the fate for Rampisham Down’s precious wildlife.  Use #saverampisham on twitter, or visit facebook.com/dorsetwildlife for live updates and to share our campaign with others.

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