Solar farm could be built near Dorchester

Solar farm could be built near Dorchester

Published by Helen Down with contributions by Local Democracy Reporter Local Democracy Reporter Trevor Bevins at 12:01am 5th January 2020.

If approved it would provide enough power for 6,000 homes.

A large solar installation, big enough to power more than 6,000 homes, could be built just off the Piddle Valley road.

It is close to the proposed site of a similar-sized installation, on the opposite side of the road, which was refused permission five years ago.

The new site being investigated lies immediately to the west of B3143 Slyer’s Lane between Pigeon House Farm and Home Farm directly opposite a track which leads to Higher Kingston Farm and Grey’s Wood.

An area of around 35 hectares is being investigated 2.3km north of Dorchester and a similar distance east of Charminster.

The site has been described as ‘gently undulating in open countryside’ partly surrounded by mature hedgerows and has a number of burial mounds nearby, including Bowl Barrow, next to the northern boundary of the site.

No public rights of way cross the site, with the land described as grade 3 agricultural farmland.

Slyer' Lane plan
Slyer's Lane Location Plan

In a summary of the proposals by a Glasgow-based company, Intelligent Alternatives, it says that a 21MegaWatt solar farm could be developed, enough for 6,130 homes, in use for 40 years, with the panels facing due south and at a maximum height of 3metres and of dark blue or black in appearance.

The site would be fenced and security cameras fitted with tracks made of crushed, permeable stone approximately 3metres wide for access, together with a number of small buildings for equipment.

Existing hedges around the site would remain in place, with the exception of a small area for access off Slyer’s Lane and may be added to by supplementary planting to shield the development.

If approved construction is expected to last six months with deliveries restricted to usual working hours. 

Temporary traffic lights would be put in place, if needed, during the construction phase.

At this stage there is no formal planning application for the site and the preparatory work and an application for what is known as ‘environmental screening’ currently being made to Dorset Council does not, necessarily, mean there is consent from the landowner, or any decision to proceed to a full planning application.

An application for a similar-size solar installation, on the east side of Slyer’s Lane at Higher Kingston Farm, by Wessex Solar Energy, was dismissed at an appeal in 2014. 

That application had been objected to by Puddletown Area Parish Council, but supported by Stinsford Parish Council.

West Dorset District Council rejected the application at the time on the grounds saying in its refusal notice that the area:

"has a strong rural character and is of a consistently open and undeveloped nature. Having regard to the nature and scale of the proposed development it is considered that it would introduce an industrial character to the site and create a more enclosed landscape to the detriment of the local landscape character. Furthermore it is considered that the development would adversely impact on views from rights of way to the detriment of visual amenity."

The appeal inspector, John Woolcock, largely agreed with the council’s reasons for refusal, concluding: 

"Notwithstanding the benefits of the scheme to renewable energy targets and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and the contribution it would make towards the local economy and biodiversity, I do not consider that the evidence submitted demonstrates that the impacts of the appeal scheme are, or could be made, acceptable."