Brownfield Site? Rampisham Down SSSI
It pays to know who you are dealing with, and this is as much the case at Rampisham Down as anywhere else.
The developers of Rampisham Down are British Solar Renewables, as I have mentioned before. BSR’s directors include Angus MacDonald, a farmer and business man whose father was a prominent Tory party fundraiser and politician Ian MacDonald. A recent addition to BSR’s board is Rupert Cotterell, who was in the Bullingdon Club at Oxford University with George Osborne. Giles Frampton is also a director of BSR.
Although these are the directors, the company is, according to Companies House data, owned by another company, Sustainable Power Generation Limited. This is owned by Angus MacDonald and his sister. This company has taken out a big loan (around £13m) from another company called RRAM Limited. RRAM has share capital of nearly £45M, just under half of which is owned by the MacDonalds; plus two financiers, and just under a quarter of its equity is owned by Lombard International Assurance. LIA are a “wealth management” company based in Luxembourg, and have recently been bought by Global Investment Company Blackstone.
BSR also raised £40M by selling a bond to a Pension Fund investment company The Pension Insurance Corporation. Or rather another MacDonald company, Solar Power Generation Limited, raised this funding. It’s not clear to me how it relates to the above Sustainable Power Generation Limited.
I know very little about how these things work, but it does seem to me that BSR has quite a complex company structure. Each solar farm they develop is set up as a separate company. This may make good business sense, making it easier for BSR to sell off farms they have developed. Indeed this is exactly what BSR did last year selling off three solar farms for £74M.
Another company which seems to be very involved with Rampisham, and BSR’s business more generally, is Community Heat and Power. CHandP have a lot to say about Rampisham – most of the “comments” on their website are about Rampisham. It was their website which made the silly claim that Natural England’s photos of the flower-filled lowland acid grassland couldn’t have been taken at Rampisham “because it looks nothing like this”. And it was they who chided me for criticising Professor Ghillean Prance’s views that the SSSI quality lowland acid grassland at Rampisham Down was “very degraded” and supporting no botanical species of concern”. Professor Prance is being paid by CHandP to advise on the Rampisham “monitoring experiment”.
Now CHandP have proudly announced that BSR have commissioned them to work on a big new project, which will culminate in ecological management plans being produced for 30 of BSR’s solar parks. It doesn’t mention whether Rampisham is included in the 30 or not. Indeed the whole piece doesn’t mention Rampisham once.
Buglife has signed up to help develop the technical guidance for invertebrates and Buglife think that this project “will set the Gold Standard for conservation in and around Solar installations”. Or does it? I queried Buglife’s role in this with Buglife and they stated that they were a “consultant” to CHandP. Now I know enough about charities to know that charities cannot do consultancy; they have to set up trading arms, often known as consultancies, to do any profit-generating work. I understand that Buglife has recently established such a trading arm called Buglife Ecological Consultancy Services. So I can only assume that CHandP have mistaken Buglife the charity with Buglife Ecological Consultancy Servces, the business. Buglife objected to the Rampisham Down Solar Farm proposal.
But who are CHandP? CHandP is a little over a year old. CHandP state on their website that they
“provides industry expertise, project management, advice and investment to help local communities maximise the benefits of renewable energy schemes.”
According to Companies House, CHand P has one Director, Hannah Lovegrove. Hannah Lovegrove is British Solar Renewables’ Director Giles Frampton’s partner. Lovegrove is also director of 10 of BSR’s Solar Park companies and several other related companies within the BSR company group. CHandP is owned by Communities Utilities Limited, whose current directors are Lovegrove and Julian Brooks. A previous CHandP Director was Neil Lawson. Lawson is head of renewable heat at Ardenham Energy, which was bought by British Solar Renewables in 2013.
Community Utilities Limited was registered at a Dorset Solicitors on 27th March 2014. The preceding and proceeding companies registered with this solicitors were:
Project Blue Sky Limited (2nd May): Directors initially Hannah Lovegrove, followed by Angus MacDonald
Skyfall Energy Limited (17th March): director Hannah Lovegrove, with six Solar Farm Companies as subsidiaries. These include BSR’s Coombe Bissett pv Park, another controversial proposal which has just got its planning permission.
The evidence I have been able to find so far, shows close links between Community Heat and Power and the “British Solar Renewables” group of companies. When Community Utilities Limited (CHandP’s parent company) submit their annual return to Companies House in May we will hopefully find out who owns them.
Photo: (c) Miles King