From the Blackmore Vale

How to lower the carbon cost of energy and Save Hardy’s Vale

“Thankfully, we do not need to desecrate Hardy’s Vale to combat climate change when we will get all the green wind energy we need – and at much lower carbon cost than solar, which is vital if climate change is to be reversed.”

Looking over Hardy’s Vale

A bid to build one of Britain’s biggest solar power stations on 190 acres, the size of 105 Wembley Stadiums, on productive farmland in the heart of the Blackmore Vale, has sparked a massive campaign opposing the ‘destruction and visual blight’ of Hardy’s Vale.

North Dairy Farm Solar Limited (c/o British Solar Renewables) has applied to Dorset Council for planning permission to install ground-mounted solar panels, a substation, inverter and transformer stations, security fencing, gates and CCTV along with vehicular access, internal access track, landscaping and ancillary infrastructure on 190 acres at North Dairy Farm in Pulham.

Swathes of cherished countryside, which the famed Victorian author Thomas Hardy referred to as the ‘Vale of the Little Dairies’, would be buried under thousands of solar panels – covering one mile long and almost a mile wide. More than 80 per cent of the solar farm would fall in the historic Mappowder parish.

The proposal for North Dairy Farm, which lies between the protected Conservation Areas of Mappowder, Hazelbury Bryan, and the village of Pulham, has been met with widespread opposition and ignited a community response, co-ordinated by Mappowder Parish Council chairman David Horrell, who formed the campaign group ‘Save Hardy’s Vale’ complete with website savehardysvale.com and Facebook page facebook.com/savehardysvale

The proposed 190 acre development site (in red) and surrounding flood zones 1 and 2

Already thousandsof people in the Vale have joined the campaign to stop the scheme, which David says would ‘destroy parts of this famed and delicate landscape forever’.

With the public consultation period set to close on May 31, David is urging readers to write or email planning case officer Simon McFarlane at Dorset Council. 

David said: “The application is to install ground-mounted solar panels, 9.5 kilometres of perimeter internal security fence and about 120, 6-metre-high camera posts, 33 inverter containers and an electricity substation.

“If approved, the solar farm would cause visual harm to the surrounding highly valued local landscape and to the setting of the nationally protected Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and two Conservation Areas peppered with significant heritage assets.”

“The numerous uninterrupted panoramic views from public roads, footpaths and bridleways which run through the site and along the escarpments above the vale would suffer significant visual harm. The industrial-sized electricity generation plant would cause visual harm to the setting of the nationally protected AONB, the Conservation Areas of Mappowder and Hazelbury Bryan and many listed buildings.

“We should not be covering productive farmland or harming highly valued Conservation Areas and protected landscapes, especially in the astonishingly beautiful countryside of North Dorset, which a report commissioned by Dorset Council called ‘Dorset’s greatest economic asset’.

“A highly valued rural scene would be replaced by an incongruous industrial one. While many objectors recognise the need for renewable energy, it should not come at the cost of ‘desecrating Hardy’s Vale’.”

David added: “We are very pleased that the Prime Minister announced October 6, 2020 that off-shore wind turbines will provide for the green energy needs of all homes in the country, by 2030. Thankfully, we do not need to desecrate Hardy’s Vale to combat climate change when we will get all the green wind energy we need – and at much lower carbon cost than solar, which is vital if climate change is to be reversed. And of course, solar is less carbon efficient as it is only available during daylight.”

Looking from the proposed industrial site into the Dorset Area of Outstanding Beauty.

‘There is a balance to strike between the need to secure our energy future, and clean up our energy sector – while preserving the UK’s agricultural landscapes and natural environment for future generations.’

‘Wind turbines can produce far more power than solar panels. A large-sized offshore wind turbine is able to generate the same amount of power as almost 50,000 solar panels.’

‘We may not have Mediterranean clear blue skies, but the UK is blessed with coastal wind.’

‘Energy produced at night can be stored or used to generate energy (e.g., pumped storage) or to produce fuel, for example Hydrogen by electrolysis.’

YOUR SUPPORT IS NEEDED NOW – WRITE YOUR OBJECTIONS TO THE PLANNERS

We will add to the information and guidance here, and on the SHV Facebook page, about how to make your material planning points known to the Council. In the meantime, please visit ‘Writing to the planners‘ guidance, and ‘Why refuse the application‘ for a selection of material planning points.

See the plans at Dorset Council P/FUL/2021/01018.

Email Simon McFarlane at planningteamd@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk or write to Simon McFarlane Planning Team D, South Walks House, South Walks Road, Dorchester, Dorset DT1 1UZ – and include the application number – P/FUL/2021/01018

 If you want to write an effective planning objection see the Save Hardy’s Vale ‘Writing to the planners‘ guidance, and ‘Why refuse the application‘ for a selection of pertinent material planning points.

Chairman of North Dorset CPRE Rupert said that the ND CPRE accepted the need for solar energy, but the ‘industrial development of this size, which is over a mile long is totally ‘inappropriate’.

“We favour small community-led solar farms that can be well-screened from surrounding viewpoints. This is neither,” Mr Hardy said.

“Our key concerns are first that the site is within the setting of the beautiful northerly part of the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and will be visible from several cherished viewpoints and much of the Wessex Ridgeway path. Secondly there are many footpaths and bridleways close to or within the site. This will impact on the amenity of the hundreds of local residents who live nearby, and visitors. Adverse impact on heritage assets is likely with the Hazelbury Bryan Conservation Area nearby, while the damage to cultural heritage is incalculable given the significance of this part of the Blackmore Vale to Thomas Hardy’s writing.

“Other concerns include flooding, as the river Lydden flows close by, and access. There will be over 22 HGV lorry movements per day for many months on a narrow track bordered by protected oak trees, and it is inevitable that damage will occur. There are ecological concerns too with numerous protected species onsite.”

See the plans at Dorset Council P/FUL/2021/01018. Email Simon McFarlane at planningteamd@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk or write to Simon McFarlane Planning Team D, South Walks House, South Walks Road, Dorchester, Dorset DT1 1UZ – and include the application number – P/FUL/2021/01018

© 2021

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