Kevin’s in shed heaven with solar-powered shack in his garden at Magdalen, near King’s Lynn

It has long celebrated one of the more bizarre offshoots of blokeishness - the relationship between a man and his outbuilding. But a former policeman from Norfolk has come arrestingly close to winning the coveted Shed of the Year award, with a solar-powered shack.

After winning the eco category of this year's awards at a canter, ex bobby Kevin Holland's Solar Shed is up against a floating summerhouse, a replica Tardis and a man who has converted his shed into a pub.

Mr Holland's �12,000 building boasts photo-voltaic panels, a water recycling system and a plant which shreds old newspapers and turns them into solid fuel briquettes.

Mr Holland, 45, is quietly confident he'll be bringing the first prize of a primus stove for making tea back to his collection of sheds at Magdalen, near King's Lynn.

'Years ago people used to have an Anderson Shelter at the bottom of their garden,' he said, tinkering with the flow of water over his solar panels.

'Nowadays, people need a solar shed. The risks are different, we're not going to get bombs dropping on us, the problem's going to be power supplies, it's going to be water supplies.'

Although relatively modest in size, at around 12ft by 6ft, Mr Holland's shed generates 5kws of electricity a day - enough to power the five freezers in a more conventional shed next door, where his family store the vegetables they grow in their cottage garden.

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'When the panels are cool, they generate more electicity,' said Mr Holland, who trickles recycled rainwater over them to keep them at the optimum temeperature. 'It's got something to do with the photons.'

Surplus power generated by the shed covers the cost of household power used by Mr Holland, his wife Harrriet, mother-in-law Liz and teenage sons Fin and Saul.

In his entry for Shed of the Year Mr Holland explains how sheds have become his passion since he left the Met and moved to Norfolk with his family eight years ago.

'The Shed has become a focal part of our life. It is a hobby room, an office, a chill-out bolt hole and a place for rather unusual parties,' he says. 'It is also doing more than its fair share for the environment and the community.'

Mr Holland will find out whether he has triumphed over hundreds of other shed lovers when the winner of this year's competition is announced next Monday - the start of National Shed Week.

The Solar Shed is the second finalist from Norfolk in as many years. Last year Darren Stride, then 19, from Scratby, near Great Yarmouth, made it into the last handful of entries with a garden shed featuring a Dad's Army Museum. he was narrowly beaten by a man from Somerset with a recording studio in his shed.

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