A farm on the edge of a Somerset beauty spot is to become a major power storage facility.

Conrad Energy (Developments) II Ltd. applied to create a battery energy storage facility at King’s Farm on Haddon Lane in the hamlet of Shearston, roughly halfway between Bridgwater and Taunton, writes Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter.

The company – which won approval last year to deliver new employment units near the Crewkerne Key Site – intends to store excess power from the UK power network and sell it back to the National Grid at peak times.

Sedgemoor District Council’s development committee approved the plans when it met in Bridgwater on Tuesday morning (August 23) – despite concerns that it would damage the character of the nearby landscape.

The new facility will be constructed to the west of the existing farm buildings, which lie less than a mile from the Quantock Hills area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).

A total of 45 shipping containers will be sited near the farm, connected via underground cables to an electricity pylon on the opposite side of Haddon Lane.

Of these 45 containers, 30 will contain batteries to store the excess energy from the grid, while 15 will contain inverters to ensure the electricity is imported and exported at the correct voltages.

Fletcher Robinson, a trustee of the Somerset CPRE (formerly the Council for the Protection of Rural England) said the AONB’s objections to the development had been “wrongly dismissed” and warned the development could damage the character of this peaceful rural backwater.

He said: “The harm is not just to the views. The main harm is to the character to the setting of the Quantock Hills.

“This proposal will cause significant harm to the immediate area of the protected landscape.”

A number of other battery energy storage facilities are already in operation in Somerset – including the Fideoak site west of Taunton (owned by South Somerset District Council) and a recently-approved facility on part of the former Wansborough paper mill site in Watchet.

South West Farmer: Plans for battery energy storage facility at King's Farm on Haddon Lane in Shearston. Picture: Conrad Energy (Developments) II Ltd.Plans for battery energy storage facility at King's Farm on Haddon Lane in Shearston. Picture: Conrad Energy (Developments) II Ltd.

Councillor Gary Wong – whose North Petherton ward includes the site – said there was “a very strong local objection” to the proposals.

He said: “By approving this application today, we are approving putting up 45 shipping containers and a security fence near an AONB. It would have a significant impact on the character of the surrounding area.

“This doesn’t need be in that location. Although energy security is important and energy prices are rising, food prices are also rising.

“We may struggle without electricity, but we will die without food. We need more farmland, not less.”

Councillor Alan Bradford – who represents the same ward – disagreed, stating that the area would be “very well screened” from the public.

He added: “Energy, as you all know, is a very topical subject, and we have to look to the future.

“We have solar farms, and we have battery farms which work very much on the same principle as solar panels on private dwellings.”

Councillor Alistair Hendry concurred: “The Quantock Hills won’t be compromised since the visual impact will be minimal.

“This is compliant with our Local Plan policy, and neither North Petherton Town Council nor the county council’s highways team have objected. Battery power is the way forward.”

After around an hour’s debate, the committee voted to approve the plans by a margin of eight votes to three.