By just one vote planners have decided to refuse plans by Aggregate Industries to build four wind turbines at its Torr Works Quarry, near Frome.
Six members of Mendip District Council’s planning board agreed with the officer recommendation that the turbines would have a detrimental impact on a variety of listed buildings, registered parks and gardens.
Five members, who believed the benefits the turbines would have in improving the quarry’s carbon footprint and Mendip’s pledge to support local businesses and enterprise, lost the vote.
Planning officer Laura McKay had recommended refusal producing a 100-page document balancing the argument.
The proposed site is a group of fields to the east of Torr Works. It lies immediately south of Asham Wood, a site of European-wide special scientific interest and part of the Mells Valley special area of conservation.
The planning permission was for four wind turbines with a maximum blade tip height of 80m to be in situ for 25 years.
Wanstrow, Whatley and Nunney Parish Councils objected to the proposal and 232 local people also objected, several of whom attended last Wednesday’s planning committee.
In her report, Mrs McKay said the wind turbines would particularly effect the setting of the Grade 11* listed Cloford Manor, with the harm compounded by the cumulative visual impact of permitted turbines at Leighton and Wanstrow.
Chairman of Whatley Parish Council John Bennett said the turbines would “desecrate” a cherished visual amenity for the next 25 years and described the application as “cynically opportunistic”.
The barrister speaking on behalf of Aggregate Industries, David Hardy said that the electricity generated would be used at Torr Works reducing its carbon footprint and helping to secure the quarry which employed 80 people with 70 at its headquarters
Councillor Gloria Cawood said it was important that the planning board was not bullied or bribed into allowing the turbines and that quarrying would continue at Torr Works because of the huge investment there.
Councillor Philip Ham asked for a deferral to allow negotiations with Somerset County Council who had attached a condition to a recent approval to deepen the quarry whereby Aggregate Industries addressed ways to achieve renewable energy targets.
However, councillors were told that this application was part of the company’s overall policy for carbon reduction and would make no difference to this local application.
An apologetic Dutch-born councillor Bente Height said that in the country where she came from turbines were considered beautiful and not obtrusive.
In explaining the reasons why she wanted to allow the turbines, she said: “We desperately need work and this quarry can provide that work.”
Frome councillor Damon Hooton said he felt the turbines would have far more impact on villagers in Leighton and that the Cloford Manor setting had already been compromised by other development.
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