Environmental protestors put on smog masks and stood mostly silently as councillors debated a proposal to build a mini-gas-fired power plant at a farm in Wroughton.

Before the meeting began the activists from Extinction Rebellion had been outside the civic offices in Euclid Street to try and persuade councillors to turn down the plan, put forward by Conrad Energy, to install a generator capable of providing 7.5 megawatts of electricity using the mains gas supply to power it.

The idea was to use the generator to send power to the national grid when demand is high and outstripping the capability of renewable sources such as solar or wind generation.

But neither the protestors nor members of the planning committee, nor ward councillors liked the proposals.

Councillor Brian Forde, who represents Wroughton, said: “I’m against this because it is using fossil fuel and it wouldn’t even be used here - we have a great record in Swindon of using solar power, so this would be creating power to be used elsewhere.”

Noise and the impact on neighbours was one of the main issues for opponents. Councillor Cathy Martyn, another Wroughton representative said: “There is nothing to limit the hours of operation - it would be at the whim of someone far away from Wroughton who probably wouldn’t care about the impact on neighbours.”

Jennifer Joule, the agent for Conrad Energy told the committee: “There have been no objections from council officers, any of the statutory consultees or the parish council.

“The term ‘power station’ has been used in the media and by objectors, but it is not that. It is a small infill generator. I’d urge you to consider the application on the evidence and not rely on rhetoric or opinion.”

John Colombi, from Conrad Energy said the plan could be considered low-carbon infrastructure because it backed up renewable energy generation, meaning larger coal or gas fired power stations needn’t be used, as when renewables weren’t available, small gas generators could be used.

When protester Tristan Strange followed the end of Mr Colombi’s speech with a profanity he was warned by committee chairman Tim Swinyard that any more outbursts would see him ejected from the council chamber

One councillor, Jane Milner-Barry, used Conrad Energy’s own guide to landowners looking to host such a power plant. She said: “ I believe noise is the problem here.

“Conrad Energy have provided a helpful guide for landlords. ‘Question: What is the position regarding planning permission? Answer: Correctly chosen sites are generally uncontentious, particularly in areas zoned commercial and industrial. Other locations will be considered but close proximity to residential uses should be avoided.’

“Here there is a house in quite close proximity and a hospice and a housing development not that far away.”

Councillors voted to refuse the application on grounds of noise nuisance. John Colombi said: “We are naturally disappointed with last night’s surprising decision by the planning committee. We are currently considering our next steps.

“Ours would have been one of many standby power generators located around the country to deliver power locally when there are gaps in supply, usually at peak times, caused by variable outputs from renewable sources such as solar and wind.

“Both the government and the National Grid recognise the need for this local standby generation as a key part of the growing renewable energy infrastructure to ensure security of supply and avoid power outages.”