Hoxne: Homeowner calls for renewable energy backing after losing solar panels fight
13:00 22 November 2013
An 83-year-old man has claimed a council should do more to encourage homeowners to use renewable energy after he was taken to court over his solar panels.
John Walker, of Hoxne, near Eye, has been ordered to pay more than £1,000 in costs and fined £400 after Mid Suffolk District Council successfully prosecuted him.
He installed 16 solar panels on an outbuilding at his home without seeking planning permission or listed building consent.
The council said the “harm” the panels caused to his home, which has listed building status, was “too great to ignore”.
But Mr Walker, who lives with his wife Geraldine, 75, and who suffers from multiple sclerosis, said the council should be backing homeowners who are investing in renewable energy.
“Quite honestly in 10 years’ time the council will probably come up with a different view,” he said.
“The country as a whole is still behind objectors (to renewable energy projects). I am very much interested in the use of sources of energy which do not run the risk of increasing the carbon output.
“You can hardly see the solar panels – certainly when it’s summertime and there’s trees and bushes around there’s not a good clear view of it from the road.”
Mid Suffolk refused retrospective permissions Mr Walker applied for as it argued the impact on a listed building was “too great”.
Councillor John Whitehead, Mid Suffolk’s portfolio holder for planning, said Mr Walker had left the council with “little option” but to prosecute.
“Preserving our historic buildings and landscapes is an important part of Mid Suffolk’s planning responsibilities.
“If we do not protect our listed buildings now they will be lost to future generations,” he said.
“This positive result is down to the hard work of council officers ensuring that every available avenue was explored before moving to prosecution.”
The council said it encourages the use of renewable energy but it needed to be balanced against preserving historic buildings.