A recent decision by the Borough Council refused planning consent for solar panels on a listed building within the World Heritage Site whose roof was mentioned in the listing and whose roof line was visible from other listed buildings, a path and open space.

Each case turns on it’s own merits and applicants are encouraged to seek professional advice. This is not advice. We’re just sharing some of the thinking behind why one application for solar panels in one recent instance was refused, as it may help inform you ahead of incurring costs. Some of the recent decision is quoted below.

DELEGATED DECISION APPRAISAL/REPORT

Application number: TWC/2015/XXXX

Proposal: Installation of [xx] solar panels to the rear roof

1.THE PROPOSAL

1.1 This application is for full planning consent with associated listed building consent (TWC/2015/XXXX) for the installation of [xx] solar panels at [xx] in Coalbrookdale.

1.2 Planning permission is required as the building is listed and the application site is within the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site and Severn Gorge Conservation where permitted development rights have been removed for the installation of solar panels that are visible from a highway waterway or open space through an Article 4 (2) Direction.

2.SITE AND SURROUNDINGS

2.1 The application site is located within Ironbridge which is situated in south Telford. Ironbridge Gorge has been local, nationally and international recognised for its historical importance and has been designated as a conservation area and World Heritage Site.

2.2 Coalbrookdale itself has an abundance of listed buildings and there are a significant number particularly situated [….] .

2.3 There [is a footpath nearby overlooking the site].

2.4 [The site is part of a group of properties]

3. RELEVANT PLANNING HISTORY

….

4. PLANNING POLICY CONTEXT

4.1 National Planning Policy Framework (the NPPF)

4.2 Saved Wrekin Local Plan policies

NR1 Location of Renewable Energy – The location of renewable energy developments should be assessed on a site by site basis and should accord with other policies in the plan particularly those regarding the historic environment.

NR3 Energy Use – Seeks to promote energy efficiency

UD2 Design Criteria – General design guidance relating specifically to respecting historic value and maintaining the quality of the skyline.

  • OL2 Designated Areas – Area of special landscape character development will not be permitted unless the applicant can demonstrate that the benefits of the proposal significantly outweigh the importance of the area.
  • HE3 New Development in Conservation Areas– Governs new development in Conservation Areas the salient point regards preserving and enhancing the character and appearance of the area.
  • HE16 Alterations and additions to listed buildings – the essential form, character and special interest of the building are maintained and the historic interest of the building and its setting are not adversely affected.
  • SG1 World Heritage Site– Significant weight should be attached to the international value of the Severn Gorge area as World Heritage Site.
  • SG4 Landscape and Nature Conservation – Existing skyline and views to and from the Gorge as well as the setting of the World Heritage Site should not be adversely effected.

4.3 LDF Core Strategy policies

CS13 Environmental Resources – Seeks the production of energy from renewable sources will be supported where consistent with other policy in the development plan.

CS14 Cultural Historic and Built Environment – Focuses on the protection, conservation and enhancement of the unique character of the World Heritage Site.

CS15 Urban Design – Looks to strengthen local identity and positively influence the appearance and use of the local environment.

5. SUMMARY OF CONSULTATION RESPONSES

[xx]

6. PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS

6.1 Having regard to the development plan policy and other material considerations including comments received during the consultation process, the planning application raises the following main issues:

The principle of solar panels

Solar Panels in World Heritage Site

Solar Panels on Listed buildings

Solar Panels in Area of Special Landscape Character

6.2 Principle of Solar Panels

6.3 The National Planning Policy Framework paragraphs 93, 95 and 98 relate to the challenges of tackling climate change by promoting the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency in suitable areas. Para 132- 138 of the NPPF provide policy guidance for conserving and enhancing the historic environment, this makes reference to the significance of setting and heritage assets affected by development. Para 132 of the NPPF provides further direction with regards to development that may cause harm to heritage assets with reference to substantial harm and less than substantial harm which should be used to weigh against public benefits of a proposal and that not all elements of a World Heritage Site or Conservation Area will necessarily contribute to its significance.

6.4 The Council supports the principle of proposals for the generation of power from renewable energy sources within the District. All proposals are to be assessed on a site by site basis for their contribution to reducing local dependence upon energy derived from fossil fuels. Proposals should accord with other policies within the plan with particular regard to the historic environment.

6.5 Solar Panels within the World Heritage Site and Conservation Area

6.6 Ironbridge is designated as a World Heritage Site and Conservation Area with local, national and international value, this importance gives the Council the responsibility to provide significant weight to the significance of the Severn Gorge area as a World Heritage Site.

6.7 As Ironbridge is located within a Gorge the lie of the land means that in most instances it is not only the front of properties which are visible but similarly the rear and side elevations are also exposed. The residential properties within Ironbridge are generally located within the slopes of the gorge and consequently there are considerable level differences causing many properties and roads siting above one another further exasperating this issue of visibility and exposure of buildings. The topography and landscape within the gorge makes it particular difficult to locate solar panels in a way that will not adversely affect established views within the area, the skyline or longer views of the area.

6.8 [Detail of the site location and impact]

6.9 Although the solar panels will not be visible from [xx] Road, the solar panels are considered to be harmful as they will adversely affect established views of the area, in particular from [xx locations]. The solar panels in their location will adversely affect the amenity of the surrounding properties and the character and appearance of the conservation area.

6.10 Solar Panels on Listed Buildings.

6.11 The property is a grade II listed building located within the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site and Severn Gorge Conservation Area. The listed building has group value forming a part of a row of listed cottages which have similar character and features. Policy H16 of the Wrekin Local Plan states alterations and additions to listed buildings will only be permitted where the essential form, character and special interest of the building is maintained and the historic interest of the building and its setting will not be adversely affected.

6.12 [xx]

6.13 The roof of this particular listed building is of significant importance [because…] . Although the solar panels will not be located on the original roof and will be on the extension, all of the roofs of [this] listed building should be protected and any addition to the listed building should seek to protect, preserve and enhance these assets.

6.14 Solar Panels in Area of Special Landscape Character

6.15 The Council will not permit development which is likely to adversely affect, either directly or indirectly, the area of special landscape character; unless the applicant can demonstrate that the benefits of the proposal significantly outweigh the importance of the area.

6.16 Whilst noting the sustainable credentials of the proposal, the test in a World Heritage Site and Conservation area is whether a proposal preserves or enhances the character and appearance of the area, it is considered that the development does not. The next test is the degree of harm associated with the proposal and in this particular location and in this circumstance it is considered that the proposal would cause substantial harm to the significance of a designated heritage asset and its setting as the proposal materially affects the roof scape and views to the application site.

6.17 When considering the proposal against the development plan and national policy guidance it is felt that the development has failed to demonstrate that the environmental benefits are so great that they outweigh the significant harm caused by the appearance of the solar panels and fail to preserve or enhances the World Heritage Site, Severn Gorge Conservation Area or Listed Building.

6.18 Other Matters

6.19 [xx]

6.20 The precedent that could be set by granting planning permission in this location could lead to a proliferation of these types of proposals; whilst each case is considered on its own merits the ability to resist the installation of such solar panels on listed buildings and within the World Heritage Site will have been weakened, and others are likely to come forward as such enquiries have been made.

7. CONCLUSIONS

7.1 In considering this application the primary factors that weigh in the planning balance are the effect of the proposal on heritage assets of the World Heritage Site, Conservation Area and listed building when considered against the sustainable credentials of a renewable energy proposal. It is considered that the application has failed to demonstrate that the benefits of the renewable energy will outweigh the detrimental harm caused by the solar panels being located on such an important heritage asset.

7.2 The precedent that could be set by granting planning permission in this location could lead to a proliferation of these types of proposals; whilst each case is considered on its own merits the ability to resist the installation of such solar panels on listed buildings.

8. RECOMMENDATION

Full Refused

1. The Local Planning Authority consider that the proposed solar panels fail to preserve or enhance the character, appearance or setting of the locally listed building and World Heritage Site as they materially affect the roofs cape and views to the application site. Accordingly the solar panels are considered to cause substantial harm on the character, appearance and setting of the listed building and World Heritage Site which has not been adequately justified. Consequently the proposal is contrary to policies CS13 and CS14 of the Telford & Wrekin Core Strategy, policies NR1, UD2, OL2 HE3, HE16, SG1 and SG4 of the Wrekin Local Plan and guidance set out in the NPPF.