Right to put up solar panels could be ended

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Planning rules may change in conservation areas to end confusion and stop intrusive solar energy installations.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s Bury Area Working Party will decide on Monday whether to recommend consulting the public on withdrawing permitted development rights in Bury St Edmunds’ conservation areas.

They would use what are known as ‘article four directions’ which make exceptions to planning rules which allow people to do things like painting a house, replacing windows or installing photovoltaic (PV) or solar water heating panels on their homes without planning permission.

Currently, article four directions apply to individual houses in the conservation area.

A report to the working party says this causes confusion because householders do not realise that their neighbours may be permitted to do things they cannot. The suggestion is to apply an article four direction to a whole conservation area.

Terry Clements, planning and transport portfolio holder, said: “We need to be proactive in these areas because there is a bit of confusion in what can and can’t be done.

“We need to keep it nice. If you’ve got a house that hasn’t been done properly next door, it affects the value of yours.”

In addition, the working party will consider using article four directions to withdraw the right to instal solar and PV panels on roofs facing streets in the town’s conservation areas.

Cllr Clements said the idea was to act before too many installations spoiled the character of historic areas.

Bury’s Green county councillor Mark Eriera said it was a shame the council had to think of putting bureaucracy in the way of those wanting to reduce their carbon footprint but accepted it was necessary.

“We’ve got to encourage people to do whatever they can to reduce carbon usage but they must also think about the visual impact in areas that are special,” he said.

“I live in the biggest conservation area in Bury and people there are sensitive to ensure their environment is as good as possible.

“You’re having to come up with all these things to stop the odd insensitive person.”

The working party will also consider setting up a grant scheme towards repairing and reinstating traditional features in Bury’s conservation areas, including boundary walls and railings.

It is proposed to try it first in Springfield Road, once a residents’ parking scheme has been set up.

The report says West Suffolk College has said it is interested in a partnership which would involve its construction students doing the work.