The fate of a solar power project in Dorset will be decided today as planning officers from North Dorset District Council meet with the project developers to make a verdict on whether the plant should go ahead or not.

The council has already recommended approval for the project, which is to be located on farmland at Iwerne Minster. However, concerns about the visual aspect of a field full of solar panels and the effect on walkers have since been raised.

The application was submitted back in February this year, by Low Carbon Energy following a pre-planning consultation held in the village. If the company’s plans go ahead, a field of nearly ten hectares close to farm buildings will be covered in solar panels, generating just over 3MWh electricity annually.

Yet it is not just the local concerns that are casting a shadow over the project’s future. The Government’s recent policy changes also threaten the financial viability of the plant if it is not completed before the potential cuts go through on August 1. This places a degree of urgency in deciding the application.

A series of meetings have been held by neighbouring parish councils in a bid to get their responses in to the district council so a decision can be made before the local elections.

A special meeting of the development control committee at Nordon in Blandford at 10.30am this morning will follow a site meeting by councillors.

Landowner Alan Perrett, who runs the small family farm with his father said, “We are a dairy unit at the moment, but if we get the go-ahead we will be bringing in sheep, which can graze under the panels and will be an easier way of managing the land than trying to mow underneath them. They may be the most unproductive sheep in the country, but they will have a job to do.”

The local member and the council’s Deputy Leader, Deborah Croney said, “The authority has received a number of expressions of interest in developing solar farms in north Dorset, but this is the only one which has been progressed sufficiently to be achievable within the timescale imposed by the Government.”