Photo-voltaic solar panels in Bradford Road

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The recent decision by LDC Planning Applications Committee to approve a retrospective application for photo-voltaic panels on a roof in Bradford Road raises issues that should deeply concern everyone who cares about our town and its historic Conservation Area.

If this practice were to be allowed to continue unchecked, views of our town’s lovely roof-scape would be horrendously disfigured by a rash of brightly coloured, sparkling aluminium-edged panels. Look out across Baxter’s Field from anywhere near the castle and you’ll see what I mean. That’s just one roof!

The decision to allow retention of these panels which have been erected in the face of strongly worded advice from the Planning Department professionals, the Town’s Civic Society and the Conservation Area Advisory Group can only have been made by councillors who have allowed their judgement to be impaired by their desire to help protect the planet.

A noble sentiment that no-one could argue with.

But I would remind those councillors that they have a duty to use their vote to preserve and protect the Conservation Area.

And that, before turning a blind eye on a practice in order to be seen to pursue “green” policies, they should consider the alternatives.

As a group, the CAAG care as much about protecting the environment as anyone else. We would always hesitate to criticise or object to any proposal that could be shown to cut CO2 emissions and harness a renewable energy source. But our first duty is to help preserve and protect the historic townscape.

We know that both aims can be achieved without compromise.

Those unsightly panels could have been sited with greater care. They could have been constructed in a colour that harmonised rather than clashed with the roofs in Bradford Road. They did not have to be contained within shiny strips of aluminium.

Apart from an initial decision to proceed without consent, the householder is the last person to blame for this fiasco.

Seduced by irresponsible feed-in tariffs – now reduced to a sensible proportion – and encouraged by a renewable industry that is Cyclopian in its approach whenever aesthetics and historic character are threatened, it is unlikely that the householder was able to make an informed choice.

There is a move to ask the planners to develop a policy towards the application of renewable technologies in the Lewes and Malling Deanery Conservation Areas. A policy that would encourage the increasing use of Solar, PVP, effective insulation and other terchnology without having a negative impact on the CA – which is rapidly becoming Lewes’s major tourist asset.

Until this is in place we rely on our Councillors to demonstrate common sense.

Councillors on the Planning Committee could and should have picked up the pieces. If they don’t show greater understanding of all the factors involved in making these kinds of planning decisions, we might as well abandon the Conservation Area and leave Lewes to its fate.

Anthony Dicks, Chair, Lewes Conservation Area Advisory Group