East Dorset District Council has approved plans for a 28MW solar farm on Richard Drax MP’s Charborough Estate near Mapperton.
The solar farm will sit across 70-hectares of grade three agricultural land, spread across five fields.
The developer of the solar farm, green energy provider Good Energy, estimates that it will provide enough annual electricity to power over 6,800 local homes.
The solar farm has received a number of objections from some local residents who criticized the size of the scheme as well as its use of “high grade agricultural” land. Good Energy has emphasized that the site has been designed so that sheep can be grazed in between the solar arrays – allowing the continued use of agricultural land. In addition, the biodiversity of the site will be boosted by the creation of wildflower meadows on the site
The energy minister, Greg Barker, recently called on developers of utility-scale solar in the UK to undertake “meaningful community consultation” after he expressed concerns about “inappropriately sited” solar farms.
As part of the planning process, Good Energy put together a benefits package for the local community which includes proposals to create a new outdoor space in the local school that will help educate children about wildlife, environment and energy. A community fund will also be setup which will receive a minimum of £25,000 a year to help support local projects. The developer has also committed to installing two solar arrays at the local school as well as the memorial hall.
Commenting on the proposals, the Campaign to Protect Rural England noted: “Although Dorset CPRE is in principle supportive of renewable energy, it strongly objects to this particularly damaging proposal for a 28MW solar park. The proposed site is greenfield, in unspoilt countryside, agriculturally productive and protected by national and local policies.”
It is predicted that the solar farm will be energised in April 2014. Commenting on the approval Ben Gowers, head of development at Good Energy said: “We would like to thank everyone who has supported the project so far. The location and design of the solar farm will make the most of the area’s sunshine for renewable energy generation while minimising impacts on the landscape, and enhancing biodiversity.”