Emotions ran high at a public meeting in Winsham on Wednesday as developers who want to put an eco-friendly campsite on the Cricket St Thomas estate were grilled about their proposal.
Stephen Taylor, who part-owns the estate, and investor Benedict Wray want to site 10 geodesic or eco-domes on wooden outdoor decking in an area known as Puthill Wood in the hope of attracting more tourists to the area following the closure of a wildlife park at Cricket St Thomas.
The idea is to create a glamorous camping or “glamping” site, aimed at affluent families from bigger cities who want to enjoy camping in the countryside without the hassle.
But the pair came under heavy fire from angry residents at the meeting held in the Jubilee Hall, who fear the proposed campsite would see an increase in noise from drunken merrymakers, an increase in traffic on narrow roads and a negative impact on the local ecology.
Concerns were also raised that the proposed clientele for the glamping site would not know how to use logburners and pose a fire risk to the pine woodland.
Cricket St Thomas resident Gill Spence said: “Most people who go camping will bring music players, they are there to enjoy themselves. They will be talking and it doesn’t have to be very loud for people to hear it because it will travel across the valley.
“This development will also generate a lot more traffic with people coming in and out to visit other locations in the area, as well as picking up supplies. Not to mention deliveries to the site and traffic coming in to remove the waste water.”
Mr Wray said the campsite would be enclosed by trees and woodland, limiting the noise.
He said the site would be serviced with a quad bike and waste water would be dealt with on a weekly basis. Fresh water would be supplied to the area through existing water pipes on the estate.
He said his wife would be providing food and that efforts would be made to keep people on the site to prevent excess traffic on the roads.
Mr Wray added: “It is impossible to keep absolute silence but there will be clear guidelines as to noise levels in the area. There will be a campsite manager, myself and other trained people, on duty until midnight to police this, based at Puthill Farm.
“We also won’t be welcoming stag and hen parties or pets.”
Winsham resident Robin Shearer said: “A lot of people will be wanting to go to Forde Abbey or the coast, in order to do that they have to drive through the village. I don’t know if they are aware of Fiveways Crossing, but it’s very dangerous.
"It’s not a safe place to increase the amount of traffic movements. It’s frankly laughable to suggest that these affluent people would be well behaved. They will be getting drunk, spewing up and making an absolute mess of the place. One unofficial policeman is not going to be able to police that.”
Concerns were also raised that the ecology survey was taken at a quieter time of year and did not reflect the true level of wildlife in the area. Mr Wray said the ecology survey had been carried out by an expert at the request of South Somerset District Council as they submitted the application.
Residents also feared that if successful, the site could expand further.
Mr Taylor said: “Let’s put this into perspective, we are talking about 10 units. I have not heard of any other glamping sites in the country which have burnt to the ground because of careless tourists and the flora and fauna on this site is not going to suddenly flee. We are trying to make the estate commercially viable and we are not at this meeting because we don’t care, we are here because we do care.”
Developers estimate the maximum number of people on the site at any time would be 40. The pods are planned to be light brown in colour to match the woodland surroundings.
Puthill Wood will be approached by road passing through the estate from the main entrance to the nearby Cricket St Thomas Hotel.