BSR Energy have submitted a planning application to cover 190 acres of productive farmland with giant solar power station to be sited between Hazelbury Bryan, Mappowder and Pulham in the beautiful heart of Thomas Hardy’s Blackmore ‘Vale of the Little Dairies’. Whilst North Dorset CPRE (NDCPRE) accepts the need for solar energy given the climate emergency, and has not objected to the majority of new solar proposals, it is felt that an industrial development of this size, which is over a mile long, is totally inappropriate. Even the developer’s consultant describes the landscape as “remote and tranquil ….a unique mosaic of woods, straight hedgerows and grassland fields dotted with distinct mature hedgerow oaks”. NDCPRE favours small community-led solar farms with a maximum capacity of 5 MW that can be well-screened from surrounding view points. This is neither, while the government’s clear focus is on cheap offshore windpower rather than expensive solar.
- This site is within the setting of the most beautiful northerly part of the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and will be visible from several cherished viewpoints including Woolland hill carpark and much of the Wessex Ridgeway long distance path. A report commissioned by Dorset County Council in 2016 stated: the environment is Dorset’s greatest economic asset and with the expected increase in tourism caused by Covid, there will be ever greater numbers visiting North Dorset. It is the far reaching views from various points along the Ridgeway which give the Dorset AONB its unique character but this development will blight that unspoiled landscape for at least 35 years.
- Close to the site and within it are many footpaths and bridleways, including part of the Hardy Way. This will impact on the amenity of the hundreds of local residents who live nearby, and visitors.
- Adverse impact on heritage assets is likely with the Hazelbury Bryan Conservation Area nearby, while the damage to cultural heritage is incalculable given the significance of this part of the Blackmore Vale to Hardy’s writing. BSR’s environmental Consultant notes an important archaeological site with the potential for the presence of archaeological remains in the northernmost field, and it is likely that any buried artefacts will be damaged by the driving in of 2m piles.
- Other concerns include flooding, as the river Lydden flows close by the site, and access. There will be over 22 HGV lorry movements per day on a narrow track bordered by protected oak trees for a period of many months, and it is inevitable that damage will occur. There are numerous protected species onsite, such as Great Crested Newts, so there are ecological concerns too.
For more information on application: P/FUL/2021/01018 visit www.savehardysvale.com
Please object to save this precious site!
Catherine Langham, North Dorset CPRE