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Poll: What do you think? Are solar panels out of place in Stalham High Street conservation area?

PUBLISHED: 09:45 15 October 2012

Solar panels on a roof in Stalham High Street.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Solar panels on a roof in Stalham High Street. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012

A man who wants to keep solar panels on his north Norfolk conservation area roof looks set to have fallen victim of a planning policy clash.

Solar panels on a roof in Stalham High Street.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYSolar panels on a roof in Stalham High Street. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Nearly 200 people have registered their support for Mr J Dace’s bid to keep the panels on the roof of 129 High Street, Stalham.

His retrospective planning application also has the backing of North Norfolk District Council’s sustainability team, which says it would “deliver a contribution to the supply of renewable energy in the district.”

And the National Planning Policy Framework requires councils to support energy efficiency improvements to existing buildings “unless material considerations indicate otherwise.”

But Mr Dace could be told next week to take the 16 panels down or face enforcement action.

The scheme has been opposed by the council’s conservation, design and landscape manager, concerned at the panels’ prominence on the property’s front roof, facing High Street, and their wider impact on the setting and character of the Stalham conservation area.

A report to Thursday’s district council development committee says:

“This is a situation where two planning policy issues pull in opposite directions.”

The application has been recommended for refusal because planning officers believe the panels’ “contemporary appearance” on a traditional building have created “an uncomfortably stark contrast which is harmful to the appearance of the building and the wider conservation area.”

The committee has also been recommended to authorise enforcement action if the panels are not removed within six months.

The conservation manager’s report says the panels could be seen up and down High Street, and from the busy walkway leading to and from Tesco. The building, home to a ground-floor hairdresser with flats above, was also next to one identified for local listing.

Mr Dace’s agent has challenged the conservation manager’s view. In a document addressed to the council the agent says: “Whilst conservation is vitally important to heritage assets, it does not mean that they and their users should not be allowed to move forward with modern technology.”

The agent also draws planners’ attention to the sign on the nearby Original Factory Shop, saying it was at street level, visible to all and did not appear to have been designed to take the conservation area into account.

Mr Dace’s application has been backed by 29 letters of support. He also conducted a Stalham High Street survey in which 161 of 196 respondents, asked whether they had an opinion about the roof of number 129, chose the option: “Yes - think good idea and not a problem visually”; a further 34 said they did not care. One stated that they did not think solar panels should be allowed.

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