Homes around Stray could be banned from fitting solar panels

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Properties overlooking the Stray could be banned from installing solar panels, under proposals being put forward by Harrogate Council.

Council chiefs are set to overturn national planning guidelines to prevent properties overlooking the parkland from installing the panels, in a move critics say could have implications across the region.

Planning officers have compiled a report urging the new cabinet member for planning, Coun Alan Skidmore, to back proposals limiting development rights on properties facing on to the Stray.

In December, the Government announced changes meaning planning permission is no longer required when installing solar panels on residential properties.

But the council’s move would mean hundreds of homes surrounding the Stray, which was given to the people of Harrogate by King George III in 1778 and remains subject to an Act of Parliament preventing development, would have to seek special permission if they wished to install solar panels.

Coun Skidmore said: “Officers are making recommendations under other planning powers to ensure the continued protection of this conservation area. I will be looking at their proposals as the first part of the process but any formal decision would be made by the full planning committee.”

The council report was prompted by a recent application to install solar panels on commercial premises on Raglan Street, which was opposed by the Harrogate Civic Society.

If agreed, the proposal to impose what is known as an Article 4 Direction will then go before a Harrogate Council planning committee for a formal decision to be made.

Henry Pankhurst, chairman of the Harrogate Civic Society, said: “We do all want to see cheaper energy and an overall reduction in energy use.

“This does not mean to say that there will be no scope whatsoever for solar panels. It means that if they are to be allowed, you will have to apply for planning permission.

“This is not a blanket ban and we will not object to every single application.

“To protect what is valuable in terms of listed buildings and the conservation area, we have to be very careful. The Article 4 will only apply within the conservation area.”

Mr Pankhurst said the recent example of nearby St Mark’s Church, which in April installed 39 solar panels on its roof – the first church to do so in the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds – showed it could be done in an unobtrusive way.