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30 January 2015 | Posted in Author , Conservation , , Planning , Plants

Author Ian Hepburn

Head of Conservation

Looking north to Rampisham Down © Tony Bates Looking north to Rampisham Down © Tony Bates

It’s been said by the Sussex Wildlife Trust and others hundreds of times before, but we depend on healthy functioning ecosystems for survival. The environment is what makes life possible and worth living, but despite this, it is under more pressure than ever before.

As our own Government says ‘Sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) conserve and protect the best of our wildlife, geological and physiographical heritage for the benefit of present and future generations.’ The network of SSSIs are fundamental to our environmental, social and economic wellbeing, they provide huge benefits and only cover only 8% of England.[1]

In spite of the overwhelming evidence of the importance of protecting SSSIs, Rampisham Down SSSI in Dorset is under threat. In a nutshell, a developer has obtained planning permission for more than 100,000 solar panels on the site. This is possibly the largest (76ha) remaining piece of lowland acid grassland in the county. The habitat will almost certainly be irrevocably damaged by the shading if the development goes ahead. The decision by the local council is all the more perverse because it went against the advice of their own planning officer, Natural England, Dorset Wildlife Trust and several others. There is an alternative site across the road which we all support and hence flies in the face of the NPPF guidelines.

Many people who are much more knowledgeable about the case have blogged on why this decision is so wrong, ecologically and ethically. In particular I recommend Miles King’s A new nature blog which neatly lays out the evidence of why this development is so damaging.

Climate change is the biggest threat facing biodiversity and we fully support a move to renewable energies, but this should not be at the expense of our most valuable and important natural areas. Please help us to Save Rampisham Down and use our e-action to email Eric Pickles - the Minister responsible - 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.

We don’t have long – the deadline for call-in requests is before 6th February 2015.

Normally this blog focuses on Sussex issues, but this is just too important not to act on. In particular this whole sorry saga emphasises why our current legislation is just not good enough to protect our environment. If we want to turn around the alarming decline in biodiversity and help improve the health and wellbeing of our citizens we need new legislation to bring about the recovery of nature in a generation. With the election looming, this is the time to make a significant change and demand a Nature and Wellbeing Act for the benefit of us all.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/protected-or-designated-areas

Comments

  • maria gardiner:

    30 Jan 2015 20:17:02

    There are many other locations for solar panels. What’s the point of an SSI if it can be built over?

  • Audrey Jarvis:

    31 Jan 2015 13:50:43

    Save Rampisham Down!

  • 31 Jan 2015 15:58:30

    Thanks very much for blogging about Rampisham. It is a disgraceful abuse of the planning system and hopefully a public inquiry will bring everything out into the open.

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