Solar farms plans under discussion

The possibility of two large solar farms within eight kilometres of each other in the Blackmore Vale has been raised in a pre-consultation by British Solar Renewables (BSR) into a facility on land at North Dairy Farm, Pulham.

The 49.99MW capacity, 76 hectare proposal will be only eight kilometres from another by Voltalia for a 35MW capacity solar installation at Higher Stockbridge Farm, Lillington, to which there have been hundreds of objections since the application was submitted to Dorset Council in February this year.

It can be found on the Dorset Council website under West Dorset applications, ref. No: WD/D/19/003181 BSR’s application is expected to be submitted in December and is the subject of an online pre-consultation at dairy-farm-project/.
During a public webinar at the end of October a member of the public asked whether the cumulative impact of the two applications would be taken into account.

Their planning consultant Hannah Ness said that Dorset Council, when asked what Environmental Impact Assessment was needed, had said they need only consider landscape, visual impact and ecology of their application, together with an assessment of heritage, traffic and flood risk.
She said BSR were aware of the Voltalia application, but did not believe the cumulative impact was significant, and the planning authority had not asked for an assessment.

In answer to a suggestion that a similar application had not been progressed some years ago, Colin Ramsay, head of project management at BSR, said the cost of connection to the grid at that time had been too high, and that there was now a wider policy environment change leading to planning authorities being friendlier to renewable energy applications.

Many other questions were fielded by the team, and Mr Ramsay said they would need to do more work on issues raised including concerns about the flood risk, the access for construction traffic which is currently envisaged down the narrow Cannings Court Lane, viewpoints and engagement with the neighbouring parish of Mappowder in which part of the application site lies.

A decision is awaited from the planning authority on an application for an extension to a BSR solar farm at North Farm, Spetisbury, which was submitted in August and can be found on the Dorset Council website under North Dorset applications, ref.2/2020/1103/FUL

There have been objections from Spetisbury Parish Council with concerns about construction traffic and Charlton Marshall Parish Council on the grounds of lack of public involvement in the pre-consultation at a time when residents were unable to discuss the application
and the extent of the combined site.

A neighbouring 49.9MW site at South Farm with 95,000 panels, for which Voltalia were granted planning permission in February, will supply electricity to the City of London in a £40 million green energy power purchase agreement with Voltalia recently announced by the City of London Corporation.

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