CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans for a solar farm in west Dorset are celebrating after it was announced the decision to grant planning permission for the site would be reviewed by the Government.

More than 10,500 letters have been sent to the Secretary of State following a decision by West Dorset District Council to approve plans for the solar farm at Rampisham Down.

The decision has now been ‘called in’ by the Department of Communities and Local Government and a decision on whether or not to grant planning consent will now be made by Greg Clark MP with the aid of a public inquiry.

The former transmission station has been declared an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and the campaign to protect the area has been led by the Dorset Wildlife Trust.

Following the decision by the district council to approve British Solar Renewable’s application for a 24-megawatt solar power station in January, the charity has been urging people to write in voicing their objections.

The DWT say WDDC’s development control committee against the advice of the authority’s own planning officer and wildlife body Natural England.

DWT chief executive Dr Simon Cripps said: “We are delighted that this decision has been called in.

"Together with the help of concerned partners like RSPB and CPRE, and members of the public, we have raised serious concerns that undermining the designation of a SSSI is not only harmful for Rampisham Down but also sets a worrying precedent for the protection of similar sites.

“In the case of Rampisham, there is an alternative site which could be used, and which we support fully.

“The rare habitat on this site has already been designated a priority site by ecologists and the Government.

“It is now in our view the Government’s responsibility to ensure this protection continues.”

“DWT is supportive of renewable energy development in the right place but Rampisham Down is the wrong place for this damaging development.”

Giles Frampton, business development director at British Solar Renewables said they were working with Natural England and had an interim management plan agreed .

He said: "It is not a done deal that it will be rejected or accepted. The minister will look at the evidence before him and All along we have been very keen to say that the actual science proves there is no harm being caused to the environment.

"We hope that common sense will prevail. 

"There is nothing in planning law that says consent cannot be granted at an SSSI. We must also remember that This is a temporary application for 25 years at which point everything will be removed and the site will be restored."

Ramphisham Down is a 72 hectare site that the DWT says provides a habitat for rare groupings of plants and fungi, including waxcaps, harebell and orchids.

It is also one of the largest areas of lowland acid grassland left in the UK, which led to its designation as a SSSI in March 2014. The initial planning application was submitted in December 2012.