Inspector refuses Uckfield solar panels

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Plans to mount solar panels on an Uckfield office building have been turned down at appeal.

In a decision notice published on Monday (May 13), a planning inspector has dismissed a proposal to mount 47 photovoltaic panels on the roof of The Granary, an office building to the rear of High Street in Cornfords Yard.

The proposal had been refused by Wealden District Council in June last year, due to officers’ concerns about its impact on the Uckfield Conservation Area, in particular the Grade II Listed 95 to 99 High Street.

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In a report at the time, a Wealden planning spokesman said: “The proposed solar panels, by reason of their scale, form, quantity and location would result in visually dominant and incongruous additions, detrimental to the character, appearance and significance of the curtilage listed building, and on the setting and character of the adjacent listed buildings and conservation area.

The Granary, Uckfield. Pic: ContributedThe Granary, Uckfield. Pic: Contributed
The Granary, Uckfield. Pic: Contributed

“The application does not demonstrate that there are public benefits that would outweigh that harm.”

The applicant, Lawson Commercial, disputed this view, arguing the council had not given proper weight to the renewable energy benefits of the scheme. The applicant also pointed out how a similar, but smaller scale, scheme had been approved previously.

However, the planning inspector shared the council’s view about the impact of the proposal.

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In their decision notice, the planning inspector said: “The [National Planning Policy] Framework requires the public benefits of the proposal to be weighed against the harm to designated heritage assets.

“In this case, whilst the contribution the proposal would make to renewable energy is an important consideration, it is not sufficient to outweigh the great weight that should be given to conserving the significance of designated heritage assets.

“The conclusion is the same, whether the designated assets are considered individually or collectively. The proposal is therefore contrary to the policies of the Framework relating to the historic environment.”

The inspector also dismissed an application for costs, judging that the council had not acted ‘unreasonably’ in coming to its decision to refuse the scheme.

For further information on the proposals see application reference WD/2023/0679/F on the Wealden District Council website.