A RURAL community is rallying together after proposals to build a gas fired power station were “dropped in from nowhere”.

Villagers and campaigners have submitted more than 330 letters of objection to planners over proposals to build a 20MW gas fired energy reserve facility along Stonebarrow Lane in Hawkchurch on the Dorset-Devon border.

Villagers feel like the community could become a “dumping ground” as there are 150 acres of solar farm development to the south of the village and permission has been granted for a further 25 acres of solar development to the north of the community.

Cllr Tim Greenshields, chairman of the parish council, said: “We are surrounded to be perfectly honest and this would add to the over-development.

“If this goes ahead, I think the community will think that Hawkchurch has become a dumping ground. About five years ago, everyone supported the first solar farm proposal, because we felt we should do our bit for renewable energy.”

The substation just outside Hawkchurch seems to be like honey to a bee for these developments.”

Campaigners have won the support of West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin, who has urged planners to turn down the proposals.

In a letter to planners, Sir Oliver said: “This development will have an impact on the west Dorset AONB. I do not believe it is appropriate, or in line with national planning policy, for industrial installations to be located in ways that have such impact on landscape of national importance. I hope, therefore, that this application will be refused.”

The plant would be a short term operating reserve power station, which would provide electricity at peak times and would be limited to doing so for 17 per cent of the year, or 1,500 hours.

In a design and access statement by RPS Group of behalf of developers STOR 107 Ltd, it states: “Reciprocating gas engine technology is a clean-burning, efficient and responsive technology that is able to generate power at very short notice.

“Previous spikes in demand on the local distribution network support the need for back-up generation which provides local grid stability and is able to reduce system stress.”

Bridport and Lyme Regis News:

The proposed site in Hawkchurch

Campaigners are also concerned about the visual impact of the proposed development, which would reach a height of 13m, with claims it would be visible on the horizon alongside Lambert’s Castle.

District councillor for Hawkchurch, Cllr Ian Hall has also hit out at the proposed development, urging planners to “hit the pause button”.

He said: “I am very concerned that this major application has been dropped in from nowhere.

“Why on earth is an applicant asking for an energy facility that is to be powered by fossil fuel? The people and the area I represent have had to endure several solar farms which has been somewhat hard to swallow.”

Simon West, an environmentalist from neighbouring Lyme Regis, said: "The 20 MW capacity of this plant represents less than one per cent of the generating capacity currently in the southwest. All in all, that’s a trivial amount for the considerable damage that it would cause to Hawkchurch and the surrounding environment."

Jon Antoniou, CEO of STOR 107 Ltd, told The News that renewable sources which rely on the environment such as wind and solar power can be "unpredictable". He said that there is a growing need for new power plants that "respond quickly to local demands and provide a secure supply of energy".

Mr Antoniou added: "Overall it is therefore concluded that the proposed development is acceptable in planning terms and meets the Government’s objectives to ensure that the UK continues to support the transition to a low carbon economy and to have a safe, secure and reliable supply of electricity.”