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Issue 345 – Council to invest £90,000 in Cheese & Grain solar project

FROME Town Council will invest up to £90,000 into a solar panel project for the Cheese and Grain which the council believe will triple in value over 25 years.

At a meeting of Frome Town Council, which took place last week, it was agreed that the authority would fund the installation of the solar panels in exchange for the revenue they would generate.
It is estimated that over 25 years the council could see a return of around £200,000, leaving a minimum of £110,000 as net income.
Frome Town Council will now await the go-ahead from Mendip District Council, who are the freeholders of the venue, before installation can begin.
Solar panelling runs on a feed-in tariff scheme, whereby energy suppliers have to make regular payments to buildings and communities who generate their own electricity from renewable or low carbon sources.
Frome Town Council heard from Cheese and Grain general manager, Steve Macarthur, who said, “The feedback to the council could bring substantial rewards. Modest estimates would return the investment nearly three times over. It makes excellent sense environmentally and the Cheese and Grain could make savings on their electricity bills.”
Cllr Toby Eliot said, “We need to make clear that this is up to £90,000. The amount to be spent is dependent on a tendering process.”
Cllr Mel Usher thanked John Birkett-Smith from the Cheese and Grain for volunteering his time to help put this project together. Cllr Usher commented, “This is an absolute no brainer for me. There’s no reason why this should not be done. The only hold-up could be Mendip District Council.”
However, cllr James Godman questioned why the town council is putting up the funds. He said, “The Cheese and Grain needs to work towards becoming more sustainable. I’m struggling to see why we are supporting this and why the Cheese and Grain committee cannot put up the funds.”
Cllr Usher responded, “The venue has no capital so cannot fund this project. We now have around five or six weeks to pay the contractor and we will get the payback.”
Cllr Godman questioned why this had come to the council now, with such little time to make a decision and said that the council shouldn’t be pressured to make a decision. However, cllr Usher responded, “The previous local government agreed to support the solar panel project, so this should not be a surprise.”
Cllr Eve Berry further objected to the proposal, claiming that there had been a lack of consultation on whether to install the solar panels or not.
The motion was passed to install the solar panels with the Independents for Frome voting in favour of the project, and Conservative members voting against.

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