A packed committee room at Wincanton erupted into applause on Wednesday as South Somerset District Councillors unanimously objected to a scheme to erect two wind turbines on land close to the racecourse, and voted to press the Government planning inspectorate for a full public inquiry into the proposal.
Family firm Keens Cheddar applied to put up the turbines, behind Moorhayes Farm, in January. At the time, the planning officer had asked for more information before the application could be validated.
But her successor had been persuaded by the Keen’s agent that a full visual impact assessment was not necessary, and the application was accepted by the district council. It should have been decided by late April this year, but there were then more requests from the council for additional information.
Although the members of the Area East committee visited the site in October, and were prepared to debate and decide the application at their November meeting, Keen’s agent appealed on the grounds of non-determination of the application – something he could have done at any time since the end of April.
But the many objectors, from Charlton Musgrove, Shepton Montague, Pen Selwood and other surrounding parishes, expressed their fury that the application had ever been validated when it lacked what they considered to be the vital impact assessment which would have allowed members to see what the turbines would mean in a visually sensitive and unspoiled landscape.
Nick Walkenshaw, representing Bratton Seymour Parish Meeting, told the committee that the 12th Century Grade 2* listed church was particularly at risk from the impact of the turbines. Their presence would distract people walking towards the alter, he said.
Peter Reynolds, representing 20 residents of Redlands Park (one of the important houses and gardens close to the proposed wind turbine site) told the meeting: “A full scale wind farm will be developed in due course” if the proposal was approved. He also called the committee’s attention to a report in the Sunday Times which said that ditching wind farms would save the economy £34 billion.
Brian Russell, who is renovating Aviaries Farm and the two towers leading to the original Redlynch Deer Park, said that if the turbines were approved it would negate the restoration project which had been long-listed for a conservation award.
He criticised the lack of information provided by the applicant’s agents. “What has been provided is sub standard, misleading or just plain wrong,” he said.
David Posnett said that the agent had taken a “cavalier attitude” to the SSDC planning department (and to local residents) by refusing to supply the information that was requested, claiming that it was unnecessary.
The decision will be made by the planning inspectorate, but councillors and objectors were unanimous in calling for a full public inquiry, at which time everyone would have an opportunity to make their cases.
The applicants (who were in the council chamber) were criticised for deciding against supporting their scheme at Wednesday’s meeting.
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