Study claims ‘no environment threats’ posed by Rampisham solar park

British Solar Renewables’ proposed solar farm at Rampisham Down would pose no threat to the local environment, a “ground breaking” ecological study has claimed.

BSR intends to develop a 25MW solar farm at the site, which used to house communication masts, however the project was called in for a public inquiry last week after the Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) complained that it would have a “damaging” and “harmful” effect on the area.

A significant ecology study was ordered by BSR in February this year and the results of which, published today, contradict DWT’s claims by stating that the solar farm is likely to have “no impact on the grassland at the site or the surrounding environment”.

The research has been endorsed by a team of scientists and renowned botanist Sir Ghillean Prance also backed the findings, stating he was “very confident” that BSR would “maintain and restore the habitat at Rampisham Down”.

BSR said the study called into question opposition to the development which it claimed was “based upon a presumption of harm that is not supported by any scientific research”.

“We have been very keen to bring on board all parties with a genuine interest in carrying out detailed scientific experimentation. However, it is very difficult for a developer to engage with entities who have pre-judged outcomes which they have then used to form the basis of their campaign of opposition,” Giles Frampton, director at British Solar Renewables, said.

Solar Media head of market intelligence Finlay Colville, who has been compiling data on this and other utility-scale solar farms in the UK, said: "British Solar Renewables efforts to develop the site at Rampisham Down date way back to early 2012, and rather unsurprisingly puts this site as one of the prime grace-compliant projects in the mix today within the UK sector.

“Until the end of 2014, BSR's engagement with all relevant parties appeared to be of a highly collaborative nature, seeking to pacify all potential objections in a professional manner. From the start of 2015, it would appear that there is more intent now from BSR to simply make this site happen, and that enough-is-enough.

“While the case has been called in for review, the fact that the case went the public inquiry appeal route may actually end up to BSR's advantage. Either way, there is likely to be serious sums of money involved pending the final decision of the inquiry, and what could have been a win-win situation if dealt with differently last year, may now only have one winner and one out-of-pocket loser.”

Dorset Wildlife Trust had yet to respond to requests for comment by Solar Power Portal on this matter.