Conservationists 'appalled' at Rampisham Down solar farm
Conservationists have said they are "appalled" by a decision to grant planning permission for a solar farm on a "nationally important wildlife site".
The application by British Solar Renewables for the 76ha (187-acre) site at Rampisham Down was approved by West Dorset District Council.
Dorset Wildlife Trust said the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) was a vital lowland acid grassland habitat.
The company said the panels would create a "fabulous, stable habitat".
The council's development control committee granted permission for the 25MW solar scheme near land formerly used as a radio transmitter station.
Nearly 120,000 photovoltaic panels on steel frames are due to be installed following demolition of 34 radio masts and towers.
British Solar Renewables said that using solar panels coated with glass with a low iron content to reduce reflectivity, along with their height off the ground, would benefit wildlife.
Other environmental measures in their proposals included creating a "wildlife corridor" between the solar park and surrounding habitats.
Dorset Wildlife Trust said the area was home to rare plants and fungi, and supported a range of wildlife including adders and skylarks.
Chief executive Dr Simon Cripps said: "Dorset Wildlife Trust supports renewable energy, in the right place. These special, legally protected wildlife sites are few and far between and there's no need to destroy them."
He said the trust supported using an alternative site nearby and would be lobbying Natural England to have the decision reversed.
Ian Gardner, chairman of West Dorset District Council's development control committee, said: "In taking this decision we had to balance the economic and environmental benefits of the solar farm and the removal of the 34 redundant masts with the impact of the proposed scheme."
British Solar Renewables said the venture was expected to support at least two full time operational and maintenance staff. The construction phase would create up to 30 construction jobs and 200 supply chain jobs, it said.