Save Rampisham Down

Ask Eric Pickles to halt damaging development on a protected wildlife site

 supporters so far

Rampisham Down - typical acid grassland flora edit.jpg

Rampisham Down in West Dorset is one of the largest areas of lowland acid grassland remaining in England. It’s a place of national importance for wildlife and is protected by law. But Rampisham Down’s wildlife is under threat. On January 15th, West Dorset District Council's Planning Committee voted to approve the development of a large solar farm on this site even though Dorset Wildlife Trust has helped to find a viable alternative site just across the road. Renewable energy schemes are vital, but this development should go ahead on the alternative site and save Rampisham Down’s wildlife for future generations to enjoy.

The official period of 21 days from the Committee’s decision in which you can ask the Eric Pickles (the Minister responsible) to 'call-in' the decision is now over and the Government is now assessing all the evidence in order to take the decision. If he chooses to Eric Pickles could still consider messages sent after the 21-day deadline in making that decision.

Please help us to Save Rampisham Down and use our e-action (see right) to email Eric Pickles and ask him to ‘call-in’ the decision. Your email will be sent to the National Planning Casework Unit (who handle requests for calling-in planning applications).

**UPDATE 3rd Feb 2015** 

In a decision made by the Department for Communities and Local Government, planning permission for Rampisham Down has been put on hold.

This means that West Dorset District Council will have to gain special authorisation to grant planning permission to develop a solar station on Rampisham Down.  The Secretary of State, Eric Pickles will now need to decide whether to ‘call it in’ and will be considering all the available information, which includes feedback from the public. This DOES NOT mean that the decision has been over-turned so we need to continue putting pressure on the Government by sending as many letters to Eric Pickles as possible.  Please help us by sending your letter and sharing this link with friends and family. Read more

Take action!

Please complete the form below to view a template message for sending to the National Planning Casework Unit. The details you enter will be used to personalise the signature at the bottom of your message. 


What's happened?

Despite being a legally protected wildlife site, on 15th January 2015, West Dorset District Council’s planning committee voted for planning permission to be granted to develop this 72 hectare (187 acre) solar farm on Rampisham Down. This was against the advice of its own planning officer and the government wildlife body, Natural England. Dorset Wildlife Trust attended the planning committee meeting and were extremely concerned that government planning policy for protecting wildlife was not discussed by the committee. National planning policy states that significant harm to wildlife should be avoided in the first instance by finding alternative sites. Legislation states that a nationally protected site for nature should not be built on unless the development is deemed to be of greater national interest and there is no other suitable development site. Given that Dorset Wildlife Trust have worked hard with the developer to find a less harmful alternative site and the development is not of national interest it should not go ahead.

Protected wildlife sites at risk

If this development goes ahead, we are deeply concerned that the protection for Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs – our finest wildlife sites) will be undermined. A precedent could be set and other protected wildlife sites in England and the UK would then be under threat from similar developments. We need to ensure this does not happen.

It’s not too late

We still have time to ask Eric Pickles, the minister who has overall responsibility for communities and local government, to call in this application. If we can convince him to make the decision himself with a public inquiry, we have a chance to save Rampisham Down – it’s wildflowers, fungi, birds, wildlife and special habitats. We are now in the 21 day ‘cooling off’ period, where we need to make sure Eric Pickles knows how strongly people feel that the decision on this development is a BIG national issue, and that SSSIs like Rampisham Down are a vital national asset that should not be damaged or harmed, especially when there are alternative sites available for development. To help get your message to the minister, we have prepared a template for you, but your letter will be even more effective if it is personalised by you. Please write now as we are running out of time – the call-in deadline is before 6th February 2015.

"With a viable alternative site available, we can’t understand why the council has allowed this important wildlife site to be lost to developers. Dorset Wildlife Trust supports renewable energy, in the right place. These special, legally protected wildlife sites are few and far between and there’s a great need to protect them, especially in this case, when there is a perfectly acceptable alternative site nearby, which we support" - Dr Simon Cripps, Chief Executive, Dorset Wildlife Trust