Businessman John Dace has won his battle to keep solar panels on the roof of 129 High Street, Stalham.

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North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) planning councillors today overturned their officers’ recommendation to refuse the application and decided trying to save the planet was more important than any damage the panels might do to the appearance of the town’s Conservation Area.

But their decision prompted a warning from the council’s conservation chief, Philip Godwin, who said: “If we continue to allow the erosion of our Conservation Areas, we will have no alternative but to consider de-designating Stalham - and even Holt.”

Mr Dace, who owns a number of properties in the High Street, argued that the panels helped keep costs down for the two shops and three flats occupying the building and were in line with government policy which said planning authorities should allow renewable-energy schemes unless there were exceptional circumstances for refusing them.

Stalham was not a chocolate-box town and in the context of the varied High Street townscape, Mr Dace said the benefits of the solar panels outweighed any other impact they might have.

Robert Stevens, councillor for Stalham, cited apocalyptic examples of increasing global warming and said he had been in New York when the great storm Sandy struck.

“There were fallen trees, enormous winds, and road signs were flying down the street. We must do all we can to save the planet for the benefit of future generations,” he said, calling on the development committee to support Mr Dace’s retrospective application.

Mr Godwin felt there was a fine balance between sustainability issues and preserving the Stalham Conservation Area which included a number of important buildings.

But Barry Smith told fellow councillors the panels did not alter the structure of the building and could be removed at the end of their life-span.

He did not notice the panels when walking down the High Street and felt the garish sign on the neighbouring Original Factory Shop was a far worse sight.

A total of 10 councillors voted to approve the panels, with two abstentions.

Afterwards, Mr Dace said he felt vindicated and thanked the hundreds of people who had supported him.

But he said there should be a public debate on Conservation Areas.

“There are far too many of them and many unjustly impinge on people’s rights. We should be allowed to get on with running our businesses,” he said.

The committee also agreed to ask the council to raise its concerns with government about businesses such as the Original Factory Shop being allowed to erect unsuitable signs.

9 comments

  • If these planners and others were serious about saving the planet they wouldn't keep travelling about in their gas guzzling cars and solar panels would be fitted as standard on all new builds.

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    John L Norton

    Thursday, November 8, 2012

  • Shame they didn't approve the wind turbine in Bodham. Thankfully that is going to appeal, so fingers crossed there is time form common sense to prevail here too.

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    Callum Ringer

    Thursday, November 8, 2012

  • People dont appreciate just how bad it is to live in a 'conservation' area. It all sounds great until you realise you have to apply for permission to do just about anything. And who are these council employees who can Lord over us dictating what is good taste and what is sensible? (They must have been on a course - so thats ok -that qualifies them!). They love conservation areas so they can act like Lords of the Manor. Family, High St, and global issues all come second to trying to make places like they were 50 years ago. Why? Times change and times are hard, we cant afford all this. Sure - protect the real 'chocolate box' villages but there are now so many conservation areas we might as well call the whole of Norfolk one and be done with it. Come on everyone - tell them enough is enough! About 65% of all Norfolk conservation areas should be de-listed. Let people get on with life. (Purhaps we could save some council staff costs dealing with all those unecesary permission applications). When I pay handsomely for my house and garden, I should have the right to put a shed up or prune a tree that is touching my house, or replace my windows or gates or fit solar panels - without going cap in hand to anyone. An Englishmans house is his castle!

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    Retals1

    Friday, November 9, 2012

  • Solar panels are an investment and will help the environment even though in only a small way. They are an investment that produce free electricity when it is used plus you get paid for it feeding into the national grid. Not cheap to buy but with average annual weather they will pay for themselves in approx. 8 years, less if the price of electricity keep going up. Well done Mr Dace.

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    Christopher Neave

    Thursday, November 8, 2012

  • If these planners and others were serious about saving the planet they wouldn't keep travelling about in their gas guzzling cars and solar panels would be fitted as standard on all new builds.

    Report this comment

    John L Norton

    Thursday, November 8, 2012

  • I am sure a few solar panels are going to save the planet. Why do we have to stick with these damned ugly things, especially in sensitive areas, when there so many panels available that are both pleasing to the eye and designed to replace and match the tiles already on the roof.

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    Unemployed and Luvin it.

    Thursday, November 8, 2012

  • Excellent result! Common sense prevails.

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    Tinkerbell

    Thursday, November 8, 2012

  • Philip Godwin said: “If we continue to allow the erosion of our Conservation Areas .... "I think you already did that when you allowed the tacky sign on the shop next door! Very glad that for once the planners didn't put asthetics first, not much good having a conservation area that only the very wealthy can afford to live in is it?!

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    catalonia13

    Thursday, November 8, 2012

  • The support for Mr. Dace's sensible measure in town might have been more persuasive as the planners case, some political expediency here, but it is a good step and it is to be seen whether NNDC conversion to energy conservation and community power generatipn projects is real.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, November 9, 2012

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