Councillors recommended to refuse application for controversial Stalham solar panels

Planning chiefs have recommended that councillors refuse the decision to allow a man to keep solar panels on his roof in a north Norfolk conservation area.

It comes following John Dace's retrospective application to keep the 16 panels on the roof of 129 High Street, Stalham, which was deferred until after a recent site visit.

The scheme was considered by North Norfolk District Council planning committee but was opposed by the council's conservation, design and landscape manager, who was concerned at the panels' prominence on the property's front roof and their wider impact on the setting and character of Stalham's conservation area.

The building, home to a ground-floor hairdresser with flats above, is also next to one identified for local listing.

Mr Dace said schemes like this were a 'priority' to help to make sure smaller shops in the town were kept viable and believed that their future was on 'a knife edge'.

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'It's a question of the High Street versus the conservation area,' he said. 'And if the solar panels are so seriously adverse visually, then they should not be there.

'My argument is that Stalham is not like other conservation areas. It has different pressures and priorities than visual appeal.'

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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 at a meeting of the development committee next Thursday (November 8) to take the 16 panels down or face enforcement action.

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

Nearly 200 people have registered their support for Mr Dace's panels, including 29 letters, and his application has the support of the district council's sustainability team and the town council. A High Street survey conducted by Mr Dace revealed 161 of 196 respondents were in favour of the panels.

He added: 'I feel like I'm being penalised just because I'm the first one who has put them up in Stalham. We are going to have to have a lot more of them in 10 to 20 years time.'

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