A failure by South Somerset District Council to determine a contentious planning application for two wind turbines will result in the decision being made by a government planning inspector.
Keens Cheddar Ltd submitted the application for two 34-metre turbines at Moorhayes Farm in Charlton Musgrove almost a year ago. The Keen family say they plan to generate sustainable electricity to power their cheese-making operation, which employs ten people.
The district council’s Area East Committee deferred its decision after discussing the plans in August. The council then told the Keens they would need to submit a visual impact assessment.
Nicholas Keen explained that there was no mention of a visual impact study when the family consulted the council’s planning department prior to submitting the application.
The proposal has met with opposition from local residents, and received more than 150 letters of objection. Mr Keen said he believes the council has been reluctant to make a decision on the contentious application.
“The visual impact is down to personal opinion but we would need an acre of solar panels to create the equivalent power and I would expect the impact of that to be considerably worse,” Mr Keen said.
“Our family moved to the farm in 1899 and has been making cheese here ever since. Electricity prices are forecast to rise and we want to establish a reliable, green source of power. There will be times when we are able to sell electricity back to the National Grid but the turbines have been selected to power the farm.”
People who have opposed the application are disappointed that the decision to grant or refuse permission for the turbines has now been taken away from local councillors.
A spokesman for South Somerset District Council explained that Area East Committee members voted to defer their decision in August as they wanted to visit the site. The Garden History Society then raised an objection to the proposal, and asked why a Zone Visual Influence (ZVI) appraisal had not been conducted. The spokesman said the council then requested a ZVI from the applicant.
“The applicants have not to date provided this ZVI and have instead appealed against non determination of the application with the Planning Inspectorate,” the spokesman said.
“Accordingly, the determination of this planning application now rests with the Planning Inspectorate and South Somerset District Council cannot determine the application.”
The Moorhayes Action Group (MAG) is campaigning against the application, claiming it should be refused because of its visual impact.
MAG spokesman David Posnett stated: “We are horrified that the developer is trying to remove the decision from local people by taking the decision away from South Somerset District Council.
“We are extremely concerned by Keens Cheddar’s attempt to circumvent the normal planning process and would urge our supporters to express their view to their councillors and to the members of the planning committee.
“We believe strongly in the development of renewable energy but feel that this development must be sustainable and needs to work alongside other existing industries, such as tourism, that already generate significant revenue for the local area.”
The application will still be discussed by the Area East Committee on Wednesday 9th November. Members will notify planning officers on what their decision would have been. The decision will be passed on to the Planning Inspectorate and will form the basis of the council’s appeal statement.