New jobs will be coming to a small village in rural Somerset after plans for a new HGV haulage depot were approved.
Paul L. Charlton Ltd., which has been a family-run haulage business since 1990, applied to build a new depot at Braeside Park near the Nunney Catch roundabout, between Shepton Mallet and Frome.
Local residents branded the plans a “travesty”, arguing it would lead to increase noise, pollution and lead to further urbanisation of the countryside.
But Somerset Council narrowly backed the plans when its planning committee east (which decisions on major applications for the former Mendip district) met on Tuesday afternoon (June 6).
The site lies on the eastern side of the A359 Burt’s Hill, just south of the Nunney Catch roundabout which connects the road to the busy A361 and the nearby village of Nunney.
The roundabout has already seen significant development, including the Nunney Catch services, the Nunney Catch café and lorry park to the north and the Delamere Park housing development, which was recently completed by Barratt Homes.
The site on the other side of the A359 was allocated in the Mendip Local Plan Part II for commercial use – but the business’ own research had concluded that neither this site or the Commerce Park in Frome would be appropriate for their purposes.
Transport manager Jake Charlton told the committee that the Braeside Park site was the best possible opportunity to cement their family business and provide high-quality employment for new local drivers.
He said: “My parents started this business in 1990, when me and my sister were barely a twinkle in their eyes. Three recessions and many fuel strikes later, we have a successful business with more than a dozen trucks.
“We are all dedicated to keeping this a family business. We and my sister want to continue to drive this business forward and make our parents proud.
“We’re excited to offer new opportunities to people wanting to get into the industry. We understand they have been some concerns from local residents; however, the layout has been carefully designed to minimise the impact.
“All we are looking for is a chance – and today, our chance has come.”
Jordan Reese, operation manager at Wiltshire Transport Training (which is based in Devizes), has been working with the Charlton family for more than ten years, developing bespoke apprenticeships to encourage young people to train as drivers.
He said: “Transport companies need a lot fo space for parking vehicles as well as a secure site to minimise criminal activities such as fuel theft.
“Having talked to Jake throughout the whole process of this, I know how hard and tirelessly the family has worked to leave no stone unturned to make sure this site is the best it can be.
“It’s surrounded by numerous local haulier and quarry sites as well, as well as the Nunney Catch services. The lorries should not be causing traffic at peak times – it won’t be like a distribution centre, where lorries are coming in and out 24/7.
“The family has strong values when it comes to safety, reputation and standards. We have worked many hours to build a specialist apprenticeship programme – they like to train up people the way they feel things should be done.”
Numerous local residents spoke out against the plans, arguing that the damage to the environment and locals’ quality of life outweighed the economic benefits the business would bring.
Elizabeth Bullus said: “What I don’t understand is why you’re passing planning applications on a greenfield site, full of wildlife and nature, when other brownfield sites are available.
“Our new king Charles is promoting planting on green fields and hedgerows, and here you are destroying them. So much is at stake here – stop this travesty.”
Nick Hayes, who lives next door to the site, said: “I feel that this is wrong in all sense. There has been no consultation process with the applicant at all.
“There are hard-working families in the local area, who’ve been working hard all their life to get what they’ve had.
“It’s going to devalue their properties by at least ten or 20 per cent. Why should they be penalised because someone wants to take a chance here?
“What this lorry park is going to bring is noise pollution. It will wake people up at night, because it’s a 24-hour operation. It will affect people’s mental health, well-being and their physical health.
“All of you here own your own properties, potentially – how would you feel if this was put next to you? Would you say yes to it then?”
Raymond Cooper added: “As someone who has lived and worked on farms, I must protest about productive agricultural land being lost in favour of this development.
“The land in question has successfully produced food for years, producing food for castle and grass and hay for silage. This proposal will produce constant noise and fumes for the residents.”
Diane Francis, who sits on Trudoxhill Parish Council, added: “This application has already been refused twice, unanimously. We really feel this is not an appropriate place for a busy lorry park – this is farmland, and it should remain so.
“The four families which live nearby will be devastated if this goes ahead. This whole area could become an industrial suburb of Frome.”
Despite these criticisms, several committee members spoke in favour of the plans.
Councillor Barry Clarke (whose Mendip Central and East division includes the site) said: “The Commerce Park won’t accept them, the piece of land over the road is not available – they don’t have a lot of other options.”
Councillor Philip Ham (who represents the same division) concurred: I think we’re between a rock and a hard place on this one. Their exciting yard is cramped, the roads are narrow – that was a horrendous place.
“This is on a main road, it’s not going through all the villages. It’s a 14-mile round trip to get to and from the quarries now, whereas from this site it’s a mile or two there and back.”
A motion to refuse the plans, put forward by Councillor Helen Kay (Frome East) was defeated by five votes to seven.
Following this vote, the committee voted to approve the plans by a margin of seven votes to five.