Wind turbine plans near Wincanton Racecourse came under the spotlight this week during a two-day appeal in front of a Government planning inspector.
South Somerset District Council threw out plans for two 34-metre high wind turbines at Moorhayes Farm in Charlton Musgrove after a storm of public protest last year.
Objectors came out in force again at Tuesday’s appeal hearing, with the racecourse and horse riders voicing safety fears over the Keens Cheddar application.
The appellant claimed the turbines would be “just an agricultural piece of equipment serving an agricultural purpose”.
If inspector Andrew Pykett decides to overturn the decision, residents fear it could signal a landmark ruling allowing a flood of wind turbines to operate in the area.
Concerns include the effect on landscape in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and its impact on nearby historical assets Redlynch and King Arthur’s Tower.
The planning inspector has to decide if the benefits offered for sustainable energy are sufficient to overturn the decision.
The biggest concern came from Wincanton Racecourse. On race days, horses will run towards the turbines along the back straight and could get spooked, according to experts.
Steve Parlett, general manager of the racecourse, said he knew nothing about a legal agreement between the applicant and council to ensure the turbines would not be used during racing.
“We have never seen any legal document to say we have control over the turbines on race days,” he said.
“The racecourse has not been consulted and these details have appeared at the 11th hour. Why should the racecourse be put at risk if there is non-compliance?”
A course inspector, with 24 years’ experience and 12 years as a jockey, said there were legitimate concerns for the safety of horses, according to Mr Parlett.
Planning officer Adrian Noon told the appeal that if something went wrong with the turbines on a race day it could have a damaging effect on the racecourse.
He said: “If there was an accident, damages would have to be pursued by the racecourse – not the council.
“I am worried any enforcement action against the turbine operator would be retrospective.”
Charlton Musgrove resident Stephen Nathan spoke out on behalf of recreational horse riders.
He said there were 38 horses in the parish, with around 25 riders using a bridleway passing within 170 metres of the turbine site.
He said: “An example of the effect the turbines would have on horses can be seen from a recent plan for a training school by the jockey AP McCoy in Lambourn.
“He had plans for a £2-million training school but refused to carry out the development until he had assurances that a nearby wind turbine was not going to be built.
“He believed it would be unsafe for his horses and their riders. We have the same concerns about turbines in Charlton Musgrove.”
The turbines are 70 metres apart and have a lifespan of around 30 years.
Theatre impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who owns property in the area, had a statement read out on his behalf speaking out against the plans.
He said the development would detract from the only major historical landmark in that area, King Arthur’s Tower, and would be an intrusion on the landscape.
Acting on behalf of the applicant, David Holmes, of Adams Holmes Associates, said: “Windmills have been with us for hundreds of years and that is all this is.
“We get our knickers in a twist over wind turbines but they are just an agricultural piece of equipment serving an agricultural purpose.
“In my opinion, because the turbines are so far away from King Arthur’s Tower, the effect on the AONB is nonsense.”
A decision is expected in around four weeks’ time.
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