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Solar farm consent on former shooting ground in Dorset AONB

Alder King Planning Consultants have secured permission for a 10MW solar park on the site of the former Southern Counties Shooting Ground near Dorchester in Dorset’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on behalf of British Solar Renewables Ltd.

5.5 ha of the site had been used as a clay pigeon shooting ground for many years while the remaining 11.5 ha is open fields but contaminated with lead as a result of the longstanding shooting activities. The site is divided by a public footpath/bridleway.

An initial planning application for a solar park on the site was refused on archaeology and landscape amenity grounds in December 2014.  The application was subsequently amended and immediately resubmitted with further specific evidence.

This evidence, following advice from Pre-Construct Archaeology Ltd, included demonstrating to Historic England that there was no archaeological interest and, following specialist sport advice from Consult QRD, demonstrating to Sport England that the “loss of sport facilities” argument was unfounded on the basis that the activity had ceased and could not restart due to the size of the site, difficulties with the rights to shoot across third party land and associated pollution reasons.

With the shooting activities curtailed, the tranquillity and amenity of the footpath in the AONB was improved and, with cross funding and remediation arguments reiterated, a suitably landscaped scheme was permitted.  The scheme was highly unusual in that one half is subject to the normal east/west orientated rows while the other half is a north/south pitched arrangement.

Alder King principal planner Catherine Norris coordinated the Environmental Statement and led the negotiation.

She said: “Significant effort was required to overcome the positions of both Historic England and Sport England and the nervousness of the Case Officer on landscape/AONB grounds.  Well-presented technical and merit arguments were key.  This was a real team effort and we are delighted to have secured consent for this distinctive configuration on such an unusual site.”

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