British Solar Renewables’ 25MW Rampisham project called in

British Solar Renewables’ plans to construct a 25MW solar farm on a site near Rampisham Down have been dealt a significant blow after the project was called in for a public inquiry.

The solar developer was granted planning permission to develop the farm on a site nearby a disused radio transmitter in January, however the then Department for Communities and Local Government secretary, Eric Pickles, issued a directive blocking planning permission until environmental studies could be undertaken.

In February BSR published the results of an ecology study and committed to a “significant study” to improve understanding of the effects of solar panels through a monitoring programme, a commitment which was confirmed the following month. But the programme has not been enough to convince local campaign groups who today celebrated the action.

The Dorset Wildlife Trust said that while it was supportive of renewable energy development, Rampisham Down was the “wrong place” and labelled the plans as “damaging”.

“We are delighted that this decision has been called in… we have raised serious concerns that undermining the designation of a SSSI is not only harmful for Rampisham Down but also sets a worrying precedent for the protection of similar sites,” DWT chief executive Simon Cripps said.

“In the case of Rampisham, there is an alternative site which could be used, and which we support fully.  The rare habitat on this site has already been designated a priority site by ecologists and the Government.  It is now in our view the Government’s responsibility to ensure this protection continues.”

A decision on the site will now be made by the new DCLG secretary Greg Clark, however no time frame has been disclosed.

British Solar Renewables had yet to comment on the story at the time of publication.