Verwood Solar Park – Proposal

We have just received information about a proposed Solar Park near Verwood.

We like it, in fact we like it a lot. It seems that the Dorset Wildlife Trust are also offering support – assisting with the developers Solstice Renewables, in the implementation of a biodiversity plan for the site. A further positive aspect is the provision by the developers of an education support fun (of £2,000 p.a) for the nearby schools Verwood First School and Emmanuel Middle School, to use on field trips to the solar park and educational resources to help them learn about renewable energy, climate change and biodiversity.

The planning application can be viewed on the East Dorset District Council website – Here

Anyway, without further ado – below is the official press release for the development

Plans submitted for Verwood solar park

15th May 2014 A planning application for a 20.4 MW solar park at Manor Farm, St. Michael’s Road, Verwood, has been submitted to East Dorset District Council, by Wiltshire-based Solstice Renewables.

The proposed site would cover 113 acres/45.7 ha and have approximately 81,400 panels. It would generate enough renewable electricity to power over 6,000 average households – enough to supply the equivalent of most of the homes in Verwood.

Giovanni Maruca, Director, Solstice Renewables, said: “We want to work closely with the local community, and have taken particular care to ensure the solar park will have a minimal visual impact on the area. The people of Verwood will benefit not only from renewable electricity being generated and used locally, but also from a dedicated community fund, as well as substantial educational and ecological benefits.”

Benefits proposed include:

A programme of ecological improvement: sowing native wild flowers and grasses to create meadows in spring and summer for bees, birds and butterflies; with further enhancements along the field margins including bat boxes, improved water habitats and beehives to benefit from the extra pollen and improved native coarse grasslands.

A community benefit fund of £1,000 per MW installed capacity, rising in line with inflation, for 20 years, in line with a protocol being established by East Dorset County Council. This is likely to amount to £20,000 a year, or over £400,000 for the lifetime of the solar farm.

Additional funding to support educational benefits, of £2,000 each per year for Verwood First School and Emmanuel Middle School to fund field trips to the solar farm and other educational resources.

The land where the solar park would be sited has been farmed by the Dalton family for several generations. It was formerly a dairy farm, but when that became uneconomic the family switched to arable farming – mainly maize, for cattle feed.

Douglas Dalton, one of the landowners said: “It’s poor quality land anyway, and it will continue to be used for agriculture – it will be grazed by sheep in the winter and will become a haven for wildlife in the summer.”

“Like many farmers, we’ve suffered from the extreme weather of the last couple of years, so the income we get from the solar park will help spread our risks and help us become better farmers too.”

A public consultation was held in February at The Hub in Verwood. Around 100 local people attended, and 74% of people who completed a feedback form said they supported the project.

Giovanni Maruca, added: “We were very pleased with the reaction of local people to our plans. One of the things they asked about was community benefit – so we’ll be providing a fund of around £20,000 a year to be spent on projects that bring economic, social and environmental benefits to the area.

“We’ll continue to engage with the local community throughout the planning process, by updating local residents, councillors and community groups on our plans and responding to and questions or concerns people may have.”

Full details of the planning application are available on the East Dorset Council Planning Portal  (reference number 3/14/0457/FUL).

Members of the public are invited to comment on the plans up to June 4th 2014 – follow the link below