GEORGE ORWELL’S MINISTRY OF TRUTH – 1984
One of the Developer’s senior executives has stated:
“I love that our solar parks are filled with wildflowers, skylarks, brown hares and even barn owls.”
However, their Application ‘Environmental Statement’ for North Dairy Farm paints a more realistic picture. While not the whole story, here are a few extracts.
The Applicant notes: “Killing or injury or disturbance by the physical clearance of habitats during site clearance and hazards during construction. There is the possibility that badgers may become trapped in open trenches, pits, or pipework”.
“Skylark, corn bunting, house sparrow, linnet and yellowhammer could suffer habitat loss, Killing or injury of individual birds and damage or physical clearance of habitats during site clearance. The Site clearance stage will involve the loss of arable and grass ley farmland at the Site, which will represent the temporary loss of nesting and foraging resources”.
DESTRUCTION OF ACTIVE NESTS and Potential for breach of wildlife legislation during construction.
Because of the “Physical clearance of habitats during site clearance, there is potential for the killing and injury of individual ground nesting birds and damage or destruction of their nests during vegetation clearance (removal of arable farmland). This will lead to a breach of wildlife legislation, as the nests of all birds are protected from destruction whilst in use”.
There could be: “Habitat loss, killing or injury caused by the physical clearance of habitats during site clearance. The clearance stage will involve the loss of arable and grass ley farmland at the Site, which will represent the loss of foraging resources for Brown Hare. The clearance stage of the arable land could result in death or injury to leverets which typically lie in shallow scrapes in the soil and stay immobile”.
There could be: “Degradation and Incidental pollution incidents during site construction and operation maintenance”.
The Applicant’s Environmental Statement does propose mitigation to reduce the effects of the identified harms the development would cause, but major energy infostructure developments “filled with wildflowers, skylarks, brown hares and even barn owls” are, like Orwell’s ‘Ministry of Truth’ a work of fiction!
The Applicant claims that the: “existing grass ley fields are of low intrinsic ecological value”. They also claim that replacing them with their ‘improved grassland’, then forever shading it with about 114 acres of impervious PV panels, will suddenly bring about a ‘net increase’ in the biodiversity of the area of 53.69 %. Now that is going to take some doing as the proposed development Site is already wonderfully biodiverse.
The existing high levels of biodiversity are, in part, because the area is surrounded by ancient hedgerows, waterways and fields that have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages. The hedgerows are a ‘Priority Habitat’ which form species rich bio-motorways (the only sort in Dorset!) for wildlife to thrive in the area.
- The Applicant’s Assessment notes that 36. species of birds were recorded during the visits to the Site, including 13 Red and 4 Amber listed. Almost all were associated with the existing field boundaries and mature trees.
- Nine species of bats were recorded in the Assessment. Great crested newts are certainly present in the pond on Site, and the four (unsurveyed) ponds within 500 metres of the boundaries are known to support a local population. The pond on Site is described as dry “for most of the year” but shown in Fig 5. To be full of water!
- Fifty-two species of Moths and butterflies are recorded. Many are rare and associated with the national and international designated sites close by. (Within their zones if influence)
- There are Records of Brown Hare, Badger, Otter, Water Vole, Harvest Mouse, Roe Deer, Squirrel, Hedgehog and Mole.
- Key ‘Interest Features’ include River, brook streams and ditches, an avenue of oak trees. Wide linear features, the pond and ancient hedgerows are a Priority Habitat.
BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION NOTE: “Butterflies and moths are sensitive indicators of the health of our environment”. “Dorset is one of the best areas in the UK for butterflies and moths”. Aners Gorse (Just 1100 metres from the proposed development) is a wonderful remnant of the once-extensive commons of north Dorset.