Rampisham Down public inquiry date set

British Renewables will have to wait until September to learn the fate of its proposed 25MW solar farm at Rampisham Down in Dorset.

A ten-day public inquiry will now commence on Tuesday 13 September after the Department for Communities and Local Government called the development in for an inquiry last year.

Central to the inquiry are purported concerns over the site as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Survey reports have been compiled and while interim results have previously been released Julian Brooks, project manager at Rampisham Down Research Studies, confirmed that it is now unable to publish further data until the inquiry has been completed.

Giles Frampton, business development director at British Renewables, said: “As a result of the consented project being called in it is no longer appropriate that data in respect of the on-going scientific testing at Rampisham Down be released to the general public.

“BSR won’t be making any further statements until the Secretary of State has determined the case before him,” he added.

The site, which has been in planning since 2013, was granted planning permission by West Dorset District Council in January 2015 but then DCLG secretary Eric Pickles issued a directive blocking planning permission until environmental studies could be undertaken.

Pickles has since been replaced as secretary of state by Greg Clark and DCLG has collaborated with the Department of Energy and Climate Change to enact a new process for planning applications held up by the planning departments of local councils as part of an attempt to ‘fast-track’ shale gas extraction applications.

At the time DECC refuted suggestions that the measures were evidence of a double standard, with many solar farms left to contend planning for more than a year. By the time the Rampisham Down inquiry concludes, the site will have been in planning for almost three years.