LOCALS living near what they call an iconic volcano say it's about to be ruined by their bungling council.
The residents of Somerset's Farrington Gurney can list fond memories of their local landmark, but that may soon be all they have.
That's because the large black conical mound that they call a volcano could soon be surrounded by a massive business park.
The locals now fear what will happen if the plans get the go-ahead as they say the mound holds their community together.
The volcano is a relic of the area’s once-thriving mining industry – which ran from the 15th century until the last coalfield closed in 1973.
Retired business consultant Anthony Beavon, 66, said the mound is a feature of the town's landscape.
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He told The Sun: “The volcano has been here for decades.
“Anything that is going to detract from it is only going to be bad for the area.
“The Old Mills Batch is part of our local history and it seems that the planners are only too quick to get rid of such landmarks to chase the money.
“It’s like selling off the family silver but once it’s gone it’s gone.”
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Shop owner Sue Maggs, 66, from High Littleton, agreed – saying her youngsters used to love playing on the volcano.
She continued: "It was a real adventure playground.
“The local community would use it to celebrate people’s birthdays and weddings by writing messages at the top which could be seen for miles around.
“Why can’t these people just leave things as they are – it will be a disaster for the local wildlife in that area because they are going to be pulling up a lot of the hedgerows which are home to thousands of birds and other animals.”
Assistant golf professional Matt Callow, 26, from Midsomer Norton, added that the area around the volcano is a "haven for wildlife".
He continued: “The volcano may well have been the leftovers from the coal mining industry in the area but it is home to a lot of buzzards and kites and they wouldn’t be there unless there was prey to be had.
“These plans to build a huge business park around the volcano will drive the wildlife away.
“For a council which is supposed to be striving to ensure that wildlife thrive in the area it is a bit of a kick in the teeth.”
It’s like selling off the family silver but once it’s gone it’s gone.
Bath & North East Somerset (BANES) Council is currently discussing a “local development order".
The order would allow businesses to develop the land around the volcano without needing to seek planning permission.
But plans for the Somer Valley Enterprise Zone could mean the site loses a quarter of its nature.
A report submitted with the planning documents said: “Most existing hedgerows within the highways sites will be lost to accommodate road widening and earthworks.
“It is proposed that these hedgerows are replaced, where possible, with species-rich hedgerows post development.”
The report added: “Following the implementation of the masterplan the majority of area-based habitats will be developed land; sealed surface and will provide no biodiversity units.
"Biodiversity net gain is not possible on site.”
But Paul Roper, BANES cabinet member for economic and cultural sustainable development, insisted that the required nature boost would still be achieved overall.
He said: “Before any works start on this site a strategic biodiversity net gain plan will be submitted to the local planning authority detailing how the biodiversity net gain requirements will be met for example, by using additional land to provide space to create new habitat.”
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The Somer Valley Enterprise Zone is intended to bring more jobs to the area and reduce the number of people having to commute to Bath and Bristol to work.
A consultation on the council’s plans to allow businesses to develop the fields has been launched, following changes that were made to the plans based on local people’s feedback.
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