CONCERN is growing over plans to build a giant solar farm on South Dorset MP Richard Drax’s estate.
Countryside campaigners claim there are now more than 500 objections to Good Energy’s application for Mapperton Farm on the Charborough Estate off the A31 near Almer.
Councillors will meet to discuss the plan on November 11.
There are more than 330 public comments for and against the proposal listed on East Dorset District Council’s website but the Dorset branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) claims there are actually more than 500 objections as some representations have been counted as one.
David Peacock from the group said it showed the strength of feeling against the plan.
A council spokesman said all comments will be taken into consideration when members of the planning committee meet to discuss the application.
The CPRE said the 174 acre farm, about the size of 110 football pitches and the second largest in the country if built today, would ruin the landscape and lead to ‘industrialisation’ of the countryside.
While the organisation supports renewable energy in principle, members say the proposed site is good quality agricultural land in unspoilt countryside and protected by planning policies.
Mr Peacock said: “This will be outrageous industrialisation of beautiful unspoilt countryside.”
Dorset CPRE vice chairman Stephen Howard added it would represent a ‘large artificial intrusion’ into sensitive countryside.
The group argues the scheme would affect heritage assets, impact on local roads and would not benefit the community a great deal.
The scheme has its supporters too. They include Transition Town Dorchester.
Judy Edwards, on behalf of the group, wrote that it would help Dorset towards meeting renewable energy targets by supplying the equivalent of more than 6,800 homes and that the environment would benefit through plans to revitalise hedgerows, manage pasture land and enhance wildlife habitats. She said the company behind the scheme, Good Energy, was an ethical firm which has a proven track record in the development of renewable forms of electricity.
A CPRE summit on renewable energy planned for Frampton village hall on October 31 has been cancelled.
Area will benefit from community fund
RICHARD Drax said in a statement: “Following a detailed and thorough assessment of the area, an application for planning consent for the proposal has been submitted.
“The local authority will now consider the suitability of the site for such use from a planning perspective.
“The opinion of the local community was sought prior to submitting the application and will continue to be incorporated.
The site is well screened and the land will be planted to a wildflower rich grass sward.
“The local area will benefit from a community fund to be established.
“At the end of the project the land will return to the existing agricultural use.”
Good Energy has said it will plant wildflower meadows as part of the scheme, commit £25,000 to an annual community fund and provide solar panels at a local school and memorial hall.