UK solar farm approved for MP's family estate

A 175-acre solar farm consisting of more than 120,000 solar panels has been approved for installation on the family estate of South Dorset MP Richard Drax.

The location of the Conservative minister’s Charborough Estate, near Mapperton in the southern England county of Dorset, has caused some local concern, with dissenting voices led by the CPRE, who argue that the PV farm is the wrong type of installation for the site, which is comprised largely of undeveloped agricultural land.

However, after a split local vote of six against six, the local planning committee chose to pass the application, enabling local installers Good Energy to set to work on the project, which has planning permission for a 30-year term.

"The opinion of the local community was sought prior to submitting the application and will continue to be incorporated," read an official statement issued by Charborough Estate. "The site is well screened. At the end of the project the land will return to the existing agricultural use."

The 175-acre site will continue to be grazed by sheep as it hosts the 120,000, 2.65 meter-high panels, which will produce enough solar energy to power 6,000 local homes annually.

The CPRE, however, remarked that the solar park would be "particularly damaging" and would instantly become a "large, artificial intrusion into beautiful, sensitive countryside."

Work on the project is expected to start before the end of 2013, with the plant scheduled to begin producing solar energy by April 2014.