Campaigners slam solar farm plans near Horton Tower folly

PLANS for two solar farms near Wimborne would damage views and surroundings at a landmark folly, according to campaigners.

Planning applications for two farms in Horton – Woodlands Manor Farm and North Farm – have been submitted to Dorset Council by Woodlands Mannington Solar Limited and North Farm Mannington Solar Limited respectively.

The scheme at Woodlands Manor Farm would see a solar farm built covering around 61 hectares, while the North Farm development would be around 30 hectares.

Documents submitted by planning agent Laurence Associates said the Woodlands Manor Farm permission would be for 40 years, with all installations able to be removed and the land returned to its previous condition.

“The proposed development is temporary in nature with permission being required for 40 years, after which the site will be returned to its original appearance with all equipment housing being removed from the site immediately after electricity ceases being exported to the Grid,” it said.

“The development is effectively fully ‘reversible’ on decommissioning.”

It added: “There will be no significant physical changes to the land in terms of earth removal or levelling, and during operation, agricultural actvities will continue with the land being used for sheep grazing.”

The same applied to the North Farm scheme, the separate application for that site said.

However, the plans have been met with dismay by campaigners, including the Dorset Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), who say the developments will impact the surroundings of nearby Grade II*-listed Georgian folly, Horton Tower.

The Grade II*-loisted Horton Tower folly. Picture: Google

The Grade II*-loisted Horton Tower folly. Picture: Google

The CPRE said the solar farms would ‘threaten not just the beautiful protected landscape surrounding the (tower) … but will harm the setting and views towards it and from it’.

“Both sites are in the Woodlands Area Of Great Landscape Value (AGLV), the Bournemouth Green Belt and are 300-375 metres from the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB),” a CPRE spokesperson went on.

“Besides the harm it will cause to protected landscapes and heritage assets, it will affect the amenity of those who live nearby, and that of the many residents who enjoy using the surrounding footpaths.”

The group urged Dorset Council to reject the application, instead focussing on ‘rooftop’ solar as the way forward.

Rupert Hardy, chair of North Dorset CPRE, said: “Rooftop solar is the way forward, rather than industrializing and desecrating our beautiful countryside.”

But the applications said the schemes would help ‘generate essential clean energy, thereby supporting climate change mitigation’.

The applicant also intends to create a ‘local benefit fund’ should approval be granted, with funds allocated to ‘local parish projects’ in consultation with the Knowlton Parish Council.

The council, which includes the Horton parish, ‘unanimously’ objected to the application for North Farm.

“There is great strength of feeling by residents to oppose this application; 30 attended the meeting of the parish council on June 21,” it said.

An illustration of the potential solar panel layout at Woodlands Manor Farm. Picture: Laurence Associates/Dorset Council

An illustration of the potential solar panel layout at Woodlands Manor Farm. Picture: Laurence Associates/Dorset Council

The council said members objected to the use of ‘quality farmland for this purpose’ and warned construction traffic would ‘further deteriorate the already over-used and poor-quality local rural roads and impact on those who live in close proximity’.

Dozens of others also objected to the scheme.

Meanwhile, a public consultation over the Woodlands Manor Farm application is still open, with several objections already received, citing increases in traffic on rural roads among reasons for opposing the plans.

People can have their say until August 4, at, searching for application reference P/FUL/2023/03415.

Knowlton Parish Council will also discuss the plans at a meeting on August 2 at Horton and Chalbury Village Hall, which gets underway at 7pm.

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