Some readers may recall that last year West Dorset District Council approved proposals for a 25MW solar farm to be built at Rampisham Down, inside the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and directly on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (this blog passim and ad nauseam). The decision was called in by the Secretary of State and a Public Inquiry is due to be held in September.
Last week the same Council rejected British Solar Renewables (the owner of Rampisham Down) proposals to build a relatively small 5MW solar farm at Thorncombe on the border with Devon.
The decision, which appears to have been delegated to Planning Officers, was taken to reject the proposal purely on landscape grounds. Here is the decision notice:
It is considered that the scheme, by reason of its extent and scale, comprising dark coloured PV panel arrays in linear repetitive rows, together with the ancillary infrastructure would result in a geometric industrial type development visible from public rights of way. This would harm the character and special qualities of the site, the Axe Valley Hills Landscape Character Area, the setting of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the local landscape. Hence the scheme is considered contrary to policies ENV 1, ENV 10 and COM 11 of the West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland Local Plan (adopted October 2015) and Contrary to advice within Section 11 (Conserving and enhancing the natural environment) of the National Planning Policy Framework 2012.
So the Council have concluded that a solar farm near to the Dorset AONB will harm the character of the Dorset landscape, but putting one five times as big, within the AONB and on a SSSI, won’t.
I would expect this decision is likely to be considered closely by the Planning Inspector at the Rampisham Public Inquiry.