Wiltshire Council recently issued a press release championing that it is ‘on track to being carbon neutral by 2030’.
Really? And are they supporting their customers – Wiltshire residents – who wish to become part of this drive? Including owners of listed buildings, of which there are many around Marlborough and surrounding villages?
To make this goal achievable as the Council can’t do it without the ‘buy in’ of the community.
Some customers, maybe. But if you live in or own a listed building, even just a Grade II property, the experience of (at least?) one resident is ‘forget it’. Just getting advice, before submission of any application for consent for installation of solar panels to a recent and non-original part of the property and not visible, for example, could cost near to £1,000. And be non-refundable. And likelihood of approval? Low….
This resident (and marlborough.news viewer, who wishes for their name not to be published) in the Upper Kennet Valley area is an owner of a listed building – Grade II and tells such a tale. They were approached in June by Wiltshire Council who were encouraging residents to take advantage of a partnership with a Solar Panel supplier and installer – ‘Solar Together’ – whereby solar panels could be fitted to their property.
They enquired to ‘Solar Together’ but then this resident discovered after some effort to get a rough quote and establish whether this would be possible or not, that it would cost nearly £1,000 just to get advice (from Wiltshire Council) – before even being able to submit an application for consent. And then no guarantee of reimbursement if the advice was ‘no, don’t bother’, or even ‘go ahead, try’, the latter with no guarantee of success and with potential rejection of the application. Wiltshire Council were unwilling even to give first stage advice as to whether it would even be possible without having gone through this prior ‘pre-application’ process. The initial response from the Wiltshire Council Conservation team was ‘put them in the garden’. Few in this area would have gardens large enough for any solar installation, certainly not this resident.
The costs would comprise an initial charge of £600 (Pre-Application Advice), assuming batteries to store the power created during the day for overnight use were to be included, as suggested by ‘Solar Together’. Then the Planning Application fee on top (advice would not be given unless there were no ‘Planning’ issues), and then a survey fee of £100 for the installers – Solar Together – which they claim ‘could’ be refundable but didn’t supply any conditions regarding qualification for such refund. And possibly engineer or architect drawings to support the project, which would also add further significant cost.
And then they (Wiltshire Council Conservation team) should be able to give the advice. Which might be ‘forget it, no chance’. This resident did ask a Wiltshire Council Conservation Office directly about this a while back, asking about installing a small array of solar panels on the roof to the secluded rear of their property. On a section of the roof slopes that was an extension (added in the late nineties, not on the original property), that would not be visible to anyone, not overlooked, and not in any way detrimental to the outward appearance of the Grade II Listed house.
The resident recalls this meeting and states that the Conservation Officer was (then) quite clear – ‘No’. Why? It’s a listed building, no solar panels. And when it was pointed out that (at that time) Government initiatives were promoting such installations, the answer was equally negative and categoric – that Conservation took absolutely no consideration of any such Government initiative.
That was a few years previously and so, following the recent ‘Carbon Neutral’ initiative this resident assumed (hoped?) that the Wiltshire Council attitude towards supporting renewable energy and becoming ‘carbon neutral’ might have evolved. But apparently not so.
This latest ‘Carbon Neutral by 2030’ claim – is it just words, a political statement, or is there any substance behind this in the way the Council acts? Window dressing? How deep does it run in the Wiltshire Council modus operandi? This resident would question any such claims based on their own direct experience. And would advise any owner of a listed building who may be considering the fitment of solar panels, anywhere on their property not to expect much, other than a significant upfront and non-refundable fee. Maybe, they added, that money would be more wisely spent with a better likelihood of some return in the bookies enclosure at either Newbury or Salisbury racecourse. But it’s not for marlborough.news to encourage or promote any form of gambling, be it with a bookmaker or even with the local authority.
Below are the two panels which support Wiltshire’s ‘Carbon Neutral’ progress claims. Click to enlarge