Solar farm scheme wins approval despite fears over visual impact
A SOLAR farm on the outskirts of Frome has been given the go-ahead, despite many residents objecting to the scheme.
The application, which was submitted by Monksham Power, is based at Monksham Farm, in Marston Bigot, and had been recommended for approval by Mendip planning officer Laura McKay.
But last month a decision on the proposals was deferred so that councillors could conduct a site visit.
On Wednesday evening's planning board meeting, held at Kilver Court, in Shepton Mallet, councillors heard from planning officer Laura McKay that her previous recommendation to approve the scheme still applied, with the applicant adding more trees to try to alleviate the visual impact element of the plans.
The application had received more than 60 letters of objection, with two in support.
Angle Yeoman spoke against the application and said there should be no compromise in protecting the valley.
She said: "The whole of the valley is unspoilt and deserves to remain so. Why not put these sort of things on brownfield sites along the side of a motorway. 30,000 solar panels is criminal and there should be no compromise in dispense of our heritage."
Mrs Yeoman added that the added tree screening would not come into affect for more than 15 years and urged councillors to vote for it to be refused.
Trudoxhill parish councillor John Salmon said its main concern was to protect the beauty of the valley.
Mr Salmon said: "The size of this is just unacceptable.
"We who are custodians should protect it.
"Although solar panels has its place it should not be at any price."
Jonathan Thompson, of Green Nation, who had put together the proposal, said the land was of low agricultural grade, would be re-instated when it expires in 25 years time and the company had agreed additional planting to lessen the visual impact.
Mr Thompson said the impact to the nearby Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty would be minimal and said it was the right proposal in the right location.
Councillors were divided on the application, discussing at length the visual impact and the possible harm to the countryside.
After much debate they voted in favour by seven votes to five, with one abstention.