26 January 2022 – Naturalis, a joint venture between renewable energy companies REG Power Management and Falck Renewables, has been granted planning permission for the construction and operation of the proposed Blandford Hill Eco Hub, bringing new public electric vehicle (EV) charging to Dorset, powered by an adjacent solar farm with battery storage. All Councillors of Dorset Council’s Strategic Planning Committee who were present throughout the meeting voted in support of the plans, following their officers’ recommendation for approval.

The hub will be situated near Winterborne Whitechurch along the A354, an important transport route between Blandford Forum and Dorchester.

Matt Partridge, Development Director for the project said: “The Government’s ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars is only a few years away. Electric vehicle sales are already growing rapidly but in order to enable a smooth transition away from cars powered by petrol and diesel, it is widely recognised that a timely roll-out of EV charging infrastructure will be absolutely critical. The Blandford Hill Eco Hub will make an important contribution towards this aim in a rural part of Dorset, where most people rely on their cars, by allowing up to 19 electrical vehicles to charge simultaneously.”

Mr Partridge continued: “Excitingly, the Hub will enable drivers to power up their vehicles with zero-carbon electricity, thanks to the integrated solar farm that will be connected to the car chargers.”

The proposals also enjoyed support from Winterbourne Whitechurch Parish Council and from the Dorset LEP. At the committee meeting, Councillors agreed that the plans for the Hub are innovative and, in the words of Cllr Sherry Jespersen, represent “a good example of the planning process working well.”

The Hub will provide 117 jobs during construction and up to 8 permanent positions when it is operational, mainly for the café and shop facilities, supporting the local economy. The project team will now prepare for the construction stage and it is anticipated that the Blandford Hill Eco Hub will be fully operational by mid- to late-2023, starting its 40-year lifespan.