ICONIC radio masts on the west Dorset skyline look set to be replaced with solar panels in a scheme worth up to £100million.

All but three of the 34 existing steel towers at Rampisham – some more than 100 metres high – are due for demolition if permission is given for a solar panel park that will create around 70 full time jobs.

If plans get the go ahead there will still be three masts left, for TV and mobile phone signals and potential future wireless broadband.

Giles Frampton, business development director of applicants Solar Power Generation, said: “It represents a direct investment into West Dorset of between £60 and £100million.

“I am really passionate about creating job opportunities in my native West Dorset. This represents a significant investment.

“We are about to create probably 60 to 70 full-time jobs at Rampisham.”

Some of the towers have been kept in response to community consultation although not everyone wants to see even those three kept. Gillian Ford, from Rampisham said it was an ideal time to restore the skyline at the site between Toller Porcorum and Corscombe.

She said: “I have no problem with the solar park proposal. Particularly, if the applications are going to continue to use the land for grazing and protect the habitat. I do however take issue with the more recent suggestion to keep two of the corner pylons as ‘part of the identity of the site’.

“Although I can understand that some may feel a certain nostalgia for the site, I feel this is a once in a lifetime chance to restore the skyline of this beautiful bit of Dorset.”

There is one letter of objection to the council from Alastair Pollard, of Hawkchurch, who thinks it would be the industrialisation of a nearly 200-acre site in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and should be refused.

The plans include two-metre security fence and six four to six-metre high CCTV cameras guarding the 163,000 panels spread over 75 acres, covering about a third of the 189-acre site.

The panels will generate approximately 40 mega watts of electricity and with the cost of production should achieve an overall positive ‘energy balance’ after approximately two years.

Director of the Dorset branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural Engand (CPRE) Trevor Bevins said: “CPRE is currently consulting members who live close to the former BBC site before submitting a formal response.

“But our initial reaction is delight that the majority of the arrays will be removed from this prominent location.

“CPRE does support renewable energy and as such generally welcomes sympathetic solar panel applications.

“We do, however, often have reservations about the associated developments which sometimes accompany solar ‘farm’ applications – primarily associated security fencing, inappropriate building designs and, in some locations even security lights which can result in schemes looking more like an open prison. We hope that this won’t be the case at Rampisham.” Comments can be submitted to West Dorset District Council until January 25.

Transmission site has chequered history THE former radio transmitting site was bought by the BBC in the late 1930s when there were fears of wartime attacks at its Daventry base.

The first broadcast went out on February 16, 1941.

Ironically two fighter planes blew up the diesel house and shepherd’s hut the following summer – two days after the same Focke-Wulf 190s killed four people in Bridport.

The attack did not interrupt transmissions.

In 1947 severe icing meant the station was off air for two weeks. Snowstorms in 1963 cut the site off for ten days.

In 1967 a helicopter was forced to land after one of the transmitting signals inflated its sea ditch buoyancy bags.

Re-engineering of the site had to take place in 1980 to overcome Russian jamming of BBC transmissions The BBC sold the site to Merlin Communications in 1997 and it was operating 24-hours a day, seven days a week broadcasting the BBC World Service in 52 different languages.