Good news today from the Department for Communities and Local Government. New Secretary of State Greg Clark has decided that West Dorset District Council’s extraordinary decision to give planning permission for a 50ha solar farm on a Site of Special Scientific Interest at Rampisham Down, West Dorset, should be reviewed by a Planning Inspector at a Public Inquiry.
This sensible decision was by no means inevitable, but happened at least in part thanks to all the 10,870 people who signed the Wildlife Trust’s e-petition asking the previous Secretary of State Eric Pickles, to call in the planning permission.
What happens next? The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has asked the developer and the planning authority to provide statements including “full particulars of the case” and a list of documents they intend to refer to. Natural England will also be asked to do the same and Dorset Wildlife Trust, who have made a number of valuable interventions to defend Rampisham Down, are also being invited to do the same. All these documents need to be prepared and sent off in the next six weeks (ie by 11th August.)
The Inspector has already indicated that they are particularly interested in evidence as to whether the development is consistent with NPPF paragraph 10 (climate change) and 11 (conserving and enhancing the natural environment). They are also interested in the extent to which the development is in line with the Local Plan.
Any organisation or individual that objected to the original planning application potentially is in a position to give verbal or written evidence to the Inquiry. As is always the case, the more people who send in evidence or are prepared to stand up and be counted, the more likely we will win. I am thinking about whether to attend and give oral evidence or not, but I will certainly be submitting written evidence. I will keep you posted with latest developments and how to go about giving evidence.