Dorset conservationists warn of “industrialisation” of the countryside
Countryside campaigners in Dorset have criticised councils and other official bodies for failing to look after the county’s protected spaces.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) group claims that it has been almost the only group to object to developments for holiday schemes, windfarms and solar panel ‘parks’ at sites in, or near, Dorset’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
The county AONB team, Natural England, some councillors and the Jurassic Coast Partnership were all criticised for not doing more to stand up against development proposals.
The criticisms came at the annual meeting of the West Dorset group of the CPRE at the Brownsword Hall, Poundbury.
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Dorset branch chairman Richard Nicholls warned that what was happening was the ‘industrialisation’ of the countryside under the guise of encouraging economic development.
He pointed to the Alaska windfarm which had been agreed for a site near Wareham, the plan for ten large-scale wind turbines near Topluddle and a massive solar ‘park’ for Rampisham. Mr Nicholls also remarked about the lack of objection from official bodies and councillors to a holiday park enlargement near Golden Cap.
There was also criticism of local councils who it was claimed were approving schemes with planning conditions – but then failing to enforce those conditions when developers ignored them.
Local councils were also accused of not including all the relevant paperwork for applications which could be looked at online. One member said that she almost always had to visit council offices to find out all the information which should have been included.
Examples were also cited of applications which were only online for a short period, or put up without all the background papers.
“When challenged, the council claim they did not have enough enforcement staff to take action to ensure compliance - which is just not good enough,” said Mr Nicholls.
Dr David Peacock said the AONB teams in Dorset were set up to manage the areas, not to protect them. He said that was the job of Natural England who had a duty to look after the AONBs, but were, largely failing to do so.
“But they, like other organisations, have been so badly cut back by the Government that they are almost bound to be ineffective."
He said that CPRE, and others, should contact them and complain if we were unhappy about what they were doing, or not doing.