Solar panels spark row between community centre and council

PUBLISHED: 17:12 07 February 2019 | UPDATED: 14:45 04 November 2019

Lucy Galvin, chair of the Marlpit Community Centre. Pic: Paul Harrison.

Lucy Galvin, chair of the Marlpit Community Centre. Pic: Paul Harrison.

Paul Harrison

Volunteers who want a community centre to save money by going green have hit out at council bosses - for blocking its bid for solar panels.

Norwich City Council insists it has not completely ruled out panels at the Marlpit Community Centre - which it owns - but is concerned the scheme put forward could saddle the centre and council with maintenance bills.

That is despite City Hall running a Solar Together Scheme, which encourages people to get solar panels for their homes.,

The volunteers who run the Hellesdon Road centre said EEC Solar, which runs the Solar Together scheme for the council, had offered to fit panels.

The committee at the centre, leased from the council, said the system would cost £9,600 and pay for itself in eight years.

If they were installed in time to benefit from the government feed in tariff, which ends in March, it would generate nearly £11,000 over 20 years, they said.

However, Lucy Galvin, chair of the Marlpit Community Centre, was told by City Hall officers they would not allow the panels.

She raised the issue at a recent city council meeting, where she asked for help to get the panels installed before the Feed In Tariff scheme ends.

Matthew Packer, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said it would not be possible to assess the centre before that deadline.

He said "Some concerns have been raised as to whether installation will provide savings or will lead to possible liabilities to community organisations as licence holders and to the council as landlord. If organisations wish to install them, they would be liable for costs and the ongoing maintenance."

Mr Packer said centres had been targeted by vandals and, if panels were damaged, replacement costs would be "excessive".

He said he would be happy to meet Mrs Galvin to explore alternative options and said a way to install panels could yet be found.

Mrs Galvin said: "Since asking the question we have obtained a meeting with officers and are hopeful that a solution can be found so that the centre can profit from this deal and also save the carbon. We will keep working on this."

She said the centre's committee were content maintenance costs were manageable and were prepared to take on full liability.

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