Fury over plans to build 190 acres of rural solar park that inspired author Thomas Hardy

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Plans to build a 190-acre rural solar park that inspired legendary novelist Thomas Hardy have met with buzz.

Locals are armed over the proposed factory, which would be the size of 150 Wembley Stadiums, with some 150,000 panels covering fields of green land in Dorset.

The farm could power 13,000 homes each year, and would be just three miles from another site where a similarly sized solar park has already been set aside.

Together they cover about 400 acres of green land in the Blackmore Vale, a patchwork of fields that capture the imagination of Victorian author Hardy and poet William Barnes.

Hardy wrote lyrically about the ‘Vale of the Little Dairies’ in his works and chose it as the setting for his famous 1891 novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

The novel’s protagonist, Tess, was born in the area.

While some opponents of the two solar parks argue that Hardy was an eco warrior for his time, they say he would never have supported the ‘desecration’ of his beloved Wessex.

The proposed plant would be the same size as 150 Wembley Stadiums, with approximately 150,000 panels covering green fields in Dorset.

Plans to build a 190-acre rural solar farm that inspired legendary novelist Thomas Hardy have met with a buzz

Plans to build a 190-acre rural solar farm that inspired legendary novelist Thomas Hardy have met with buzz

Hardy wrote lyrically about the 'Vale of the Little Dairies' in his works and chose it as the setting of his famous 1891 novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Hardy wrote lyrically about the ‘Vale of the Little Dairies’ in his works and chose it as the setting of his famous 1891 novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Tony Fincham, president of the Hardy Society, said: “Hardy was an environmentalist before the term was widely used and I suspect he would have preferred clean energy production.

He didn’t like cars and modern inventions, so he may have supported the implementation of solar panels. However, this is a large-scale solar park.

Hardy gives beautiful, quite lyrical descriptions of the area and the views. Obviously, Hardy is opposed to anything that somehow spoils the landscape.

“It’s a beautiful landscape that he wouldn’t have wanted to ruin.”

Proposed by British Solar Renewables Energy, the North Dairy Farm Solar Park stretches for over a mile and is said to be adjacent to the conservation areas of Mappowder, Hazelbury Bryan and Pulham.

Objectors have condemned the plans as inappropriate, arguing that it would cost the province its environmental and cultural heritage.

The Save Hardy’s Vale community, opposing the plan, said ‘the industrial destruction and visual devastation of the beautiful Blackmore Vale’.

Group member Ian Bryan said: “It’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.

‘It is an area of ​​outstanding natural beauty. It turns a beautiful piece of countryside into an industrial estate and the impact on the communal paths in that area is destroyed.

If Hardy came back to life, he’d see that the area hasn’t changed since he wrote Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

“He wouldn’t want any damage done to highly prized natural areas and protected landscapes, especially the astonishingly beautiful scenery of North Dorset.”

Objectors have condemned the plans as inappropriate, arguing that it would cost the province its environmental and cultural heritage

Objectors have condemned the plans as inappropriate, arguing that it would cost the province its environmental and cultural heritage

While some opponents of the two solar parks argue that Hardy was an eco warrior for his time, they say he would never have supported the 'desecration' of his beloved Wessex.

While some opponents of the two solar parks argue that Hardy was an eco warrior for his time, they say he would never have supported the ‘desecration’ of his beloved Wessex.

The Save Hardy's Vale community, opposing the plan, said 'the industrial destruction and visual devastation of the beautiful Blackmore Vale',

The Save Hardy’s Vale community, opposing the plan, said ‘the industrial destruction and visual devastation of the beautiful Blackmore Vale’,

Just as Hardy may have done, the Campaign to Protect Rural England prefers small community-run solar parks with a maximum capacity of 5 MW that can be well shielded from surrounding viewpoints.

However, they strongly oppose BSR’s proposal, along with the other solar farm planned for Stockbridge Farm, near Sherborne.

Rupert Hardy, Chairman of North Dorset CPRE, said: ‘They are quite large solar parks that will do obvious damage in terms of adverse visual effects and heritage of a pristine area of ​​Blackmore.

‘We are aware of climate change and we support smaller farms with solar panels, but these are not small farms – they are substantial. We find this desecration of the countryside completely inappropriate.

‘It would be a shame if they were built as Dorset is a county known for being unspoilt.

‘It would be a tragedy, because the area is extremely valuable to visitors and residents alike. We are so concerned about the heritage and cultural resources. ‘

Residents such as Reverend Richard Kirlew and his wife Liz of Sherborne in North West Dorset have written a letter to the Dorset Council expressing their opposition to the plans.

Reverend Kirlew said, “With huge amounts of land being swallowed up for construction, it is ridiculous to lose another 190 acres.

‘While we are well aware of the need for a reliable and clean source of electricity, we don’t see why it is necessary to shift the burden of this to areas that appear to be of little relevance to the planner.

‘We must not forget that the countryside, even if it affects only a few of the population, indirectly affects all of us directly.

‘We are both fully behind solar panels, but these should be on the roofs of new buildings and not take up such large amounts of good agricultural land.

“There are two very similar sized applications going on in a similar area. I have absolutely no objection to solar energy, but once you have two, there is nothing more to say that you cannot have any more.

‘It would ruin the countryside. It’s not a case of nimbyism, but two that size will be a thing, trust me. It’s really gonna be a bit much. ‘

The proposals are similar to last year's, for a site just three miles away

The proposals are similar to last year’s, for a site just three miles away

Locals near Longburton in the Blackmore Vale, Dorset, opposed similar plans last year

Locals near Longburton in the Blackmore Vale, Dorset, opposed similar plans last year

BSR Energy says the plan will “assist the Dorset Municipality in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with local and national targets.”

Colin Ramsay, head of development at British Solar Renewables, said: “It has never been more important to change the way we generate energy in this country.

‘This solar park would generate enough much-needed renewable energy to meet the (equivalent) annual electricity needs of approximately 13,000 local single-family homes.

The Dorset Council recently declared a climate emergency, this application will help Dorset meet its commitments and help the UK achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

In addition to generating much-needed clean energy, this temporary planning application would dramatically improve the country’s biodiversity (by more than 50%) and provide green ‘corridors’ to enable and encourage wildlife and roaming deer to country.

Before submitting a planning application, we conducted a public consultation, listening carefully to local concerns and encouragement to shape our proposals.

“We will continue to work closely with Dorset Council and the local community as the planning process progresses.”

The consultation for the North Dairy Farm Solar Park will close at the end of this month.

The proposals are similar to last year’s, for a site just three miles away.

The Paris-based company Voltalia plans to install 100,000 solar panels on fields near the village of Longburton in the Blackmore Vale.

The £ 20 million solar park, described at the time as the largest in the South West of England, with an area of ​​187 acres or the size of 140 football pitches, would produce enough energy to power 10,600 homes for 35 years.

But residents slammed the ‘uncomfortably large development’, claiming it would ruin the setting for Hardy’s best works.

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