The proposal to build a giant 190-acre solar farm between Mappowder and Pulham, in the beautiful and historic Blackmore Vale, met huge opposition this year.
The current situation is that Dorset Council asked the developer to redo its Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment in the wake of clear deficiencies exposed by the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Save Hardy’s Vale community group. The photographs for this Assessment can only be completed when all the leaves are off the trees so a planning hearing will not occur until next year.
Rupert Hardy, Chair of North Dorset CPRE, says “we accept the need for solar energy given climate change, and have not objected to a number of new solar farm proposals. However, we felt that an industrial power station of this size, and in this setting, was totally inappropriate. We favour roof-mounted solar panels and small community-led solar farms that can be well-screened from surrounding viewpoints. This is neither.
Our key concerns are still that the site is within the setting of the beautiful northerly part of the Dorset AONB, and will be visible from several cherished viewpoints and much of the Wessex Ridgeway path. Other issues include amenity, heritage, ecology and flooding, which has become even more apparent this autumn.
The approval by Dorset Council of a similar-sized solar farm last month at Higher Stockbridge, a few miles to the west, is very regrettable, especially as there were, or are, equally strong material planning reasons to refuse both. However, there are some different issues too here. Hopefully, the planning committee will pay heed to the substantial harm the proposal here would have on a nationally protected landscape while the flooding issue is very serious.
The Higher Stockbridge decision is highly contentious, as the expert Planning Officer strongly recommended refusal, a number of key members of the committee were unable to be present and the reasons given by some Committee Members for approval are very questionable. We remain optimistic, but not complacent, about the outcome here.”
Rupert Hardy, Chair of North Dorset CPRE