WEST DORSET: The government has put planning permission for a controversial solar farm on hold.

Conservationist campaigners including Dorset Wildlife Trust had launched a campaign for Secretary of State Eric Pickles to intervene after councillors at West Dorset District Council granted permission for the development at Rampisham Down near Beaminster last month.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has now told West Dorset planners they are not to grant permission for the scheme without specific authorisation.

Chief executive of Dorset Wildlife Trust, Dr Simon Cripps, said: “Dorset Wildlife Trust is not against renewable energy development, but we will oppose it on sites where the development could cause harm to the environment. 

“Rampisham Down is already legally protected, and there is an alternative site across the road, which we would support.  If this development were to go ahead, it could put other SSSIs in the UK under threat."

Cllr Ian Gardner, chairman of West Dorset District Council’s development control committee, said: “The impact on Rampisham Down was considered by the Development Control Committee.

“However, the committee finally placed greater weight on the benefits of the scheme, which include the removal of 34 redundant masts that dominate the landscape and the environmental benefits of generating power from a renewable resource.”