Charborough Estate solar farm: Plans thrown out by judicial review

Proposals for a solar farm on land owned by a Dorset MP have been thrown out following a judicial review.

Plans for 90,000 solar panels across 44 hectares (106 acres) on the Charborough Estate had been approved by East Dorset District Council's planning committee.

But, the High Court overturned plans for the land owned by South Dorset Tory MP Richard Drax.

Residents and campaigners had raised concerns over its size, visual impact and the loss of agricultural land.

Plans for the solar farm had already been scaled down from covering 70 hectares (175 acres) of land before being given the green light by councillors in July 2015, despite more than 650 objections.

'Damaging industrialisation'

At the hearing in London however, Judge Rhodri Price Lewis QC said East Dorset councillors had been "materially misled" by a report that down-played the solar farm's impact on "heritage assets".

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) had claimed the farm near Bere Regis, developed by firm Good Energy, was too big and represented "damaging industrialisation" of the countryside.

Campaigner Katharine Butler said she was "delighted" by the decision.

Good Energy had said the project could generate enough electricity to supply 6,344 homes and promised to contribute to a £35,000 annual community fund and offer reduced price electricity to local residents.

A spokesman said it would take time to review the ruling.

"We maintain that Mapperton is a good site for a solar farm and would make an important contribution to local and national renewable energy targets while bringing significant investment to the local community," he said.

Steve Butler, the council's portfolio holder for planning, said he had been "disappointed" by the judgement.

"We are studying the detail of it to determine our approach with regard to an appeal," he added.

The Charborough Estate declined to comment.

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