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Masts the past in solar farm future for Rampisham
ICONIC radio masts at Rampisham look set to be replaced by solar panels in a £60 to £100million scheme.
All but three of the 34 existing steel towers – some more than 100 metres high – are due for demolition if permission is given for a solar panel park that will create around 70 full-time jobs.
Under the plans the three left would be for TV and mobile phone signals and potential future wireless broadband.
Giles Frampton, business development director of applicants Solar Power Generation, said: “It represents a direct investment of £60m to £100m.
“I am passionate about creating job opportunities in my native West Dorset.
“This represents a significant investment. We are about to create probably 60 to 70 full-time jobs at Rampisham.”
However, not everyone wants to see the three masts kept.
Gillian Ford, from Rosemary Cottage, Rampisham said it was an ideal time to restore the skyline.
She said: “I have no problem with the solar park proposal. Particularly, if the applications are going to continue to use the land for grazing and protect the habitat. I do take issue with the more recent suggestion to keep two of the corner pylons as ‘part of the site’s identity’.
“Although I can understand that some may feel a certain nostalgia, I feel this is a once in a lifetime chanced to restore the skyline.
“To leave two redundant pylons seems perverse.”
The council has received one letter of objection from Alastair Pollard, of Hawkchurch, who thinks it would be the industrialisation of a nearly 200-acre site in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and as such should be refused.
The plans include a two-metre security fence and six four to six-metre high CCTV cameras guarding the 163,000 panels spread over 75 acres – covering about a third of the total 189-acre site.
The panels will generate around 40 mega watts of electricity which is sufficient to power small town of 40,000 homes.
Dorset Campaign to Protect Rural Engand (CPRE) director Trevor Bevins said: “CPRE is currently consulting members who live close to the former BBC site before submitting a formal response.
“But our initial reaction is delight that the majority of the arrays will be removed from this prominent location.
“CPRE does support renewable energy and as such generally welcomes sympathetic solar panel applications.
“We do, however, often have reservations about the associated developments which sometimes accompany solar ‘farm’ applications.
“Primarily this is associated security fencing, inappropriate building designs and, in some locations even security lights which can result in schemes looking more like an open prison.
“We hope that this won’t be the case at Rampisham and will be looking closely at the application for how the site can been screened in ways which, hopefully, minimise the visual impact of the development, should it go ahead.”
Comments can be submitted to West Dorset District Council until January 25.
FIRST BROADCAST WENT OUT IN 1941
THE former radio transmitting station was bought by the BBC in the late 1930s when there were fears of wartime attacks at its Daventry base.
The first broadcast went out on February 16, 1941.
Ironically two fighter planes blew up the diesel house and shepherds hut the following summer – two days after the same Focke-Wulf 190s killed four people in Bridport. The attack did not interrupt transmissions.
In 1947 severe ice forced the station off air for two weeks.
Snowstorms in 1963 cut the site off for ten days.
In 1967, a helicopter was forced to land after one of the transmitting signals inflated its sea ditch buoyancy bags.
Re-engineering of the site had to take place in 1980 to overcome Russian jamming of BBC transmissions.
The BBC sold the site to Merlin Communications in 1997 and it was operating 24-hours a day, seven days a week broadcasting the BBC World Service in 52 different languages.