A decision on plans for a huge new solar farm near Frome has been pushed back due to concerns site access safety.

Low Carbon UK Solar Investment put forward proposals in November 2023 for a new solar farm on the B3109 Bradford Road near the village of Rode, north-east of Frome.

The solar farm (dubbed ‘Bluebell Wood’) could provide enough power for one-third of all homes in the former Mendip area, or around six per cent of all properties in Somerset.

Planning officers recommending that permission be granted for the application, but councillors instead voted to delay a decision for up to three months until access issues had been resolved, with a site visit expected to take place by the end of spring.

The developer claims the site, which is nearly 184 acres, will have sufficient capacity to power 16,000 homes – the equivalent of half the population of Frome.

If approved, the solar farm and battery storage site will be operational for 40 years, after which time the land will be returned to agricultural use.

Gary Holloway, who lives near the site, spoke vociferously against the plans when the planning committee east met in Shepton Mallet on May 7.

He told the committee: “This is a poorly considered project, one which has little support from the local community or the public at large.

“This is a large-scale project that will significantly change the character of a hitherto rural area – and 40 years is not a temporary time-frame.”

Fletcher Robinson, a planner for CPRE Somerset, concurred: “This is a huge, dominating solar farm, more than twice the size of the historic village of Rode.

“There should be a much larger buffer zone separating the village from the scheme. The full capacity can only be reached for a few weeks of the year at best in summer. Solar may be relatively cheap, but it’s hugely inefficient compared to offshore wind.”

Shaun Freeman, who lives on Monkley Lane, claimed the road was too narrow to serve as an appropriate access point – including for emergency vehicles in the event of a fire.

He said: “Monkley Lane is a narrow, single-track lane which is only two metres wide in part. On entering the lane from the busy, 60mph A361, an HGV driver can see only 50 yards into the lane, and the trimming of trees will not increase this.”

Dave Fuller spoke in favour of the plans, arguing the need for clean energy outweighed local concerns about the views of the surrounding countryside.

In a statement read out on his behalf, he said: “I will be a direct neighbour to the solar farm, with parts of the project being in view of my house and garden – but that does not worry me.

“As a family we embrace renewable technologies and already have solar panels on our roof to provide clean energy.”

Somerset Council and its predecessors have approved numerous new solar farms in the last two years – including one on the B3098 Lodge Hill, to the east of Frome, in October 2022.