Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Victory for landowner in battle over solar panels

A GORING man who built solar panels on his estate without planning permission has won his fight to keep them.

A GORING man who built solar panels on his estate without planning permission has won his fight to keep them.

Bill Jackson, of Gatehampton Road, was ordered to remove the structures when South Oxfordshire District Council found out about them last October.

However, a planning inspector has ruled that they can stay after Mr Jackson appealed.

Mr Jackson built three rows of solar panels on a meadow next to his garden more than two years ago.

They cover 80 square metres, are 60 cm tall and are connected to the national grid by underground cables.

They generate between 18 and 36 units of electricity a day, enough to power about 10 homes a year. Mr Jackson sells the electricity to energy companies under the feed-in tariff scheme.

When the district council became aware, it told him to take them down as they were out of keeping with their rural surroundings.

It said: “Whilst the council accepts that solar panels are not available in materials with a non-urban appearance, this cannot justify the siting of panels of open land.

“The siting of the panels fails to protect the countryside for its own sake and introduces new built development which extends the settlement edge. The sustainable benefits of the solar panels do not outweigh the harm identified above.”

But planning inspector Roger Clews said they were discreet enough to stay even though technically they are in breach of the council’s planning policy.

Following a visit to the site, he said: “The panels could not be seen from Gatehampton Road, through gaps in the hedge, due to the height of the meadow grass.

“They were also invisible from the Thames Footpath and the bridleway on the opposite side of the meadow. Indeed, it was only when very close to the panels that I had any view of them at all.

“The very low height of the solar panel array means that it is unlikely to be prominent in public views from the adjacent road and public rights of way even if the grass were to be mown short.

“The development is so small and inconspicuous that it causes no material harm... moreover, the solar panels have a positive benefit in that they contribute towards the important goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.”

Mr Jackson declined to comment on the appeal but said of his panels: “I believe it was the right thing to do.

“Being involved with the sustainability group and the hydro scheme, I think green issues are important and should be promoted.

“In the future we will have a simple choice: to either get a considerable amount of our electricity from nuclear power or to get it from sun, wind and water.”

Mr Jackson is treasurer of the Goring and Streatley Sustainability Group, which plans to build a hydro-electric generator at Goring Weir.

It is carrying out studies to gauge the scheme’s environment impact this summer and hopes to submit a planning application when these are finished. The plant, which would consist of three 12ft Archimedes screws, would generate more than £100,000 worth of electricity in a year * enough for 300 homes.

In February last year Mr Jackson helped Goring Village Hall, of which he is a trustee, get planning permission for solar panels on its roof.

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