A West Country crane company could be forced to relocate one of its Somerset depots if it loses an appeal against a local authority’s decision.

South West Crane Hire Ltd operates one of its depots on the former site of the Creech Paper Mill in the village of Creech St. Michael near Taunton.

The company applied to Somerset West and Taunton Council for retrospective planning permission to store its cranes on the site – but this was denied in December 2020.

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The company has now appealed to the Planning Inspectorate – meaning it could face further legal action from the council if the original ruling is upheld and may have to move its custody account as a result.

The company currently has depots near Taunton and Yeovil in Somerset and three others in Barnstaple, Bristol and Plymouth at its main base in Exeter.

The Taunton base is in the Mill Lane industrial area between the railway line and the River Tone on the east side of the M5 motorway.

Aerial view of the South West Crane Hire Depot on Mill Lane in Creech St. Michael

South West Crane Hire bought its portion of the property from Upstream Pipeline Services Ltd. in 2016. according to the documents submitted as part of the appeal process and applied for retrospective approval to store four cranes on the site in March 2020.

The council rejected the plans shortly before Christmas on the grounds that the existing Mill Lane access road was “inferior”, creating an “unacceptable risk to the safety of road users and pedestrians”.

It also concluded that the noise and vibration generated by the cranes moving to and from the site would be “detrimental” to existing residents of Mill Lane and the surrounding streets.

Creech St Michael already serves as a point of contact for those looking to avoid the M5 or A358 to either the Monkton Heathfield urban extension or the A38 to Bridgwater.

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XL Planning Ltd. (which the crane company represents in the complaint) asserts that such grounds for refusal were unreasonable given the previous use of the property and the Mill Lane access road.

A spokesman said: “Vehicle depot use is an established lawful use due to continued upstream use from at least 2000 through 2016, when the site was purchased by South West Crane Hire.

“The use by South West Crane Hire is not much different from the previous use by Upstream in that both companies use the yard for vehicle storage and operate it as the base where the companies provide off-site services.

“It is not intended to increase the number of cranes on the construction site. The cranes will be stored on site between the rental periods.”

The Planning Inspectorate has confirmed that the appeal will be carried out through written statements rather than a virtual public inquiry.

Anyone wishing to make a formal statement with the inspector should visit www.acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk by July 14, using the appeal reference number 3274593.

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