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Christ Church in Ore, where planners propose to block the installation of solar panels on the roof (photo: HS/LB/19/00890 Heritage Statement).

Christ Church in Ore, where planners propose to block the installation of solar panels on the roof (photo: HS/LB/19/00890 Heritage Statement).

Support urged for Christ Church solar energy scheme following HBC refusal

Plans to install solar panels on Christ Church in Ore, while fully in line with Hastings Borough Council’s policy of boosting renewable energy, have run into objections from the council’s planners. Energise Sussex Coast, one of the project partners, is calling on town residents to post a supportive comment. Nick Terdre reports.

The plans drawn up by Christ Church and Energise Sussex Coast (ESC) call for solar panels to be installed on both roofs of Christ Church as well as the church hall. However, the church is a listed building and is located in a conservation area, so special considerations apply.

Though no formal decision has yet been issued, planners have made clear to the project team that they are preparing to refuse the application on the grounds that visible solar panels would “be detrimental and cause harm to the character of the Listed Building.”

For ESC’s Kate Meakin, there seems to be a contradiction between the listed building requirements set by national government policy and the council’s target of making Hastings a carbon-neutral town by 2030 following the declaration of a climate emergency almost a year ago.

Stuck in limbo

“We feel we’re stuck in limbo,” she told HOT. “It seems the planning system rules have not been updated in light of the climate emergency.”

Schematic showing the 30 solar panels on the church roof (image: HS/LB/19/00890 Elevation Drawing).

Schematic showing the 30 solar panels on the church’s road-facing roof (image: HS/LB/19/00890 Elevation Drawing).

ESC has appealed to residents to let the planners know their feelings about the project by submitting a comment on the relevant applications on the council’s website (see below), and a petition has been submitted to the council as a further demonstration of popular support for the project.

The matter will therefore go to the next meeting of the planning committee on Wednesday 4 March for a final adjudication. However, time is running out for the project – it has to be completed by the end of March to qualify for the feed-in tariff which will be withdrawn after that date.

Without the benefit of the feed-in tariff, it may be unviable and unable to go ahead, even if approval were later granted, Meakin said.

Former councillor Richard Street, who was also chair of the planning committee,  argues in a comment that the fact that solar panels would be visible on the church roof “does not make them detrimental to the street scene nor detract from the setting of the listed building.”

He notes guideline 196 of the National Planning Policy Framework which states: “Where a development proposal will lead to less than substantial harm to the significance of a designated heritage asset, this harm should be weighed against the public benefits of the proposal including, where appropriate, securing its optimum viable use.”

Benefits outweigh negative impact

”The benefits of this proposal,” Street writes, “far outweigh any negative impact on the listed building so it should be supported in line with policy SC6 of the local plan. I hope the officers’ objections will be withdrawn and the application supported.”

A similar ruling by HBC planners has been made in the case of an application to mount solar panels on the roof of Dudley Infants Academy, which is located in a conservation area in Harold Road. In this case planners refused panels on the roof facing the road, but had no objection to panels on the roof facing away from the road.

Lacking time to appeal the refusal, ESC plans to install half the panels as permitted, although this will reduce both the capacity for renewable energy generation and the economy of the project.

Panels on five local schools

Dudley is one of five local schools, along with St Leonards Academy, Hastings Academy, Churchwood and Baird, for which ESC has raised £400,000 in recent months through a community share offer to fund solar panel installation. Installation is complete at Hastings Academy, Churchwood and Baird, and should be finished in a couple of weeks at St Leonards Academy, Meakin said.

Kate Meakin and eco-activist Julia Hilton amid a myriad solar panels on the roof of Hastings Academy (photo: ESC).

Kate Meakin and eco-activist Julia Hilton amid a myriad of newly installed solar panels on the roof of Hastings Academy (photo: ESC).

Christ Church and Sandown are among a following group of projects, along with Hastings Furniture Service. The community share offer will be reopened to raise funds for these projects.

For Christ Church the project forms part of a transformation project intended to give the church a more active role in community life. Installing solar panels would “act as a beacon to encourage other churches and community buildings to do the same and to support the church’s activities by bringing down their energy costs,” it says.


To post a comment, follow these links to the respective applications on the HBC website (one for the church hall and two for the two church roofs), then click on the comment box: HS/FA/19/01004, HS/FA/19/00889HS/LB/19/00890.

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Posted 17:49 Thursday, Feb 13, 2020 In: Energy


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Eye on the ball

    I fail to understand why HBC thinks it is acceptable to put man made structures in an area of outstanding natural beauty (Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve) against the wishes of the users of the park, but object to the request of local people to install 30 solar panels on the roof of a church in an already built up area. Who does this council represent? In both cases i support the wishes of the local people – yes to Christ Church, NO to the country park.

    Comment by Eye on the ball — Tuesday, Feb 25, 2020 @ 08:17

  2. ken davis

    I can’t help thinking that instead of wasting time on such straightforward decisions as this the conservation staff at HBC should be putting in place long term plans for moving the most precious listed buildings which will flooded in the town to higher ground. A few PV panels on a roof are not going to change the long term character of a building.

    Comment by ken davis — Monday, Feb 17, 2020 @ 08:20

  3. Penny

    This is the authority which helped promote the introduction of GAS CENTRAL HEATING to 40 flats in Pevensey Road to a church owned block of pensioners flats.
    What can we expect from them next? Heaven knows? I dread to think.
    The rest of the world is coming to terms with the elimination of fossil fuels, but Hastings Borough Council knows better, apparently.

    Comment by Penny — Sunday, Feb 16, 2020 @ 22:44

  4. Bolshie

    How about a comment from Cllr Maya Evans on this issue. As she has been telling all how wonderful it would be to have a solar farm in ten acres of the Country Park. After all she is the solar panel expert for HBC and Labour.
    What is her take on this refusal.
    Further what I find rather galling is how it would be “detrimental and cause harm to a listed building.” Most of the listed buildings in the borough have been abused and neglected. One in particular a Grade II* Pugin Chapel. Where I hammered away for three years with HBC to step and do something to the seriously deteriorating building that is unique to East Sussex. With no support in my plight by HBC, including Cllr Chowney, I went to English Heritage and finally got it put on the national “At Risk Register.”
    Then there is the old Burton Terrace in Archery Road, Grade II, empty since 2009 after the college moved out. Many concerns about that lovely building but could you get anyone in the council to act on its vulnerability – NO.
    Again when I raised it with Cllr. Chowney, he said he could not intervene as he lived close to it.
    Any wonders why I find the council suddenly objecting to this.

    Comment by Bolshie — Sunday, Feb 16, 2020 @ 16:21

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