Despite the government encouraging the uptake of solar energy, a resident in Kent wishing to do his bit for the environment and have solar panels installed on his roof has been denied planning permission because his house lies within a conservation area. Of course this is not an uncommon occurrence, and there is even an organisation in Yorkshire which helps people in such areas to get planning permission through a number of means. What makes this case odd, and the decision arguably quite mad, is that this roof already has a solar panel on it. Planning permission was granted for that solar panel, on that part of the roof, but now the owner wants to put solar panels on another part of the roof, the request has been denied.
Because that part of the roof is in the conservation area. Two metres inside the conservation area. The owner is understandably annoyed.
When it comes to bureaucracy of course, all there are is rules. And after all, a boundary is a boundary, and if it kept moving just a little bit, soon there would be no boundary at all. On the other hand however, any common sense approach would seem to suggest that the installation should have been allowed.
The rest of the street on which the owner lives is not bound by any conservation rules. In addition to this, the conservation area in question is shielded from his roof by trees. Of course trees can lose their leaves or be chopped down, so that would not necessarily be permanent. Even so, with all of these factors in the owner’s favour, as well as the importance of people taking up solar energy, this decision seems to be sending out a bad message.
After all there is of course also the issue of how important the potential damaging of an area’s look is when it comes to solar energy. Fossil fuels are not going to last forever, and on top of that their use creates pollution. There is an argument that could be made that combating these things are more important than areas looking “pretty”. On the other hand, if part of the value of a place is that it is in an area which appears to be untouched by modern technology, then the value of that place would probably go down if solar panels were installed. And the owner presumably knew that part of his property was in a conservation area before he moved in, so should have known that applications of this sort might be refused.
The question boils down to whether or not the decision was based on the consideration that the installation of solar panels on the roof would actually damage the conservation area, as the council claim, or whether it was just to follow the rules. If the former, then the decision is defensible, if the latter then it’s just another example of the world gone mad.
Fortunately most people do not live in conservation areas, and are free to take advantage of solar energy in any of its forms.