Controversial plans for a gas power plant in Midsomer Norton have been put on hold after 1,700 people signed a petition.
The decision at Bath and North East Somerset Council to green-light Conrad Energy’s development sparked outcry from opposition members and the Liberal Democrat administration alike.
Despite dozens of local objections, the plans were approved in May without being discussed at a planning meeting or a vote being cast.
Cabinet members promised a review and are continuing to press for a greener solution after Conrad Energy agreed to put the development on hold until the spring.
Councillor Sarah Warren, cabinet member for climate emergency, said: “I am delighted that Conrad is considering greener business models that will support us in reducing our carbon footprint, as part of our plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2030.
“It is to the company’s huge credit that they are responding to local residents’ concerns about the impact of the proposed gas generator on both air quality and global heating.”
Conrad Energy said its project would “provide flexible power to balance the local electricity network”. It chose a site between the Midsomer Enterprise Park and Welton Primary School, prompting fears about the impact on children.
Others were outraged that the council had approved the fossil fuel-burning scheme when it had declared a climate emergency and promised to cut carbon emissions.
Residents claimed the decision had slipped under the radar – permission was granted by an officer under delegated powers rather than elected members.
The Lib Dem administration said they had begun revising the council’s planning policies to honour the climate emergency declaration, but in this case “the council’s hands were tied”.
They said the ward’s Conservative and Independent councillors could have called the application in to the planning committee but “chose not to do so”. Tories dismissed that as “nonsense”, saying the Lib Dems had had a year to act after they gained a majority.
More than 1,700 people have since signed a petition urging Conrad Energy to rethink its plans and switch to a more sustainable, low carbon alternative.
Talks are ongoing between it and the council to see if a greener solution for the site might be possible.
Chris Shears from Conrad Energy said: “Our business model is all about supporting the increase of renewable energy on the grid, whilst keeping the lights on, and we are very keen to support B&NES Council with its climate emergency and clean air objectives.
“We have taken on board the feedback from councillors and from local residents and will work in partnership with the community to develop a solution in Midsomer Norton that works for everybody.”
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter