Planning gurus will be examining whether Milton Keynes residents who have spent money on expensive solar panels can be protected if their neighbours decide to extend their properties, putting the green energy measures literally in the shade.
The issue came to light at Tuesday’s meeting of the Milton Keynes Council Cabinet where a planning decision taken at a Development Control Committee on December 13 highlighted a perceived loophole.
While neighbours have certain rights when it comes to privacy and light, when it comes to panels that generate energy from the sun, it seems they are not protected from nearby developments.
Councillor Keith McLean raised the issue of a plan for a two-storey rear extension and single-storey side extension at a property in Pyke Hayes, Two Mile Ash, that was approved in December. Even though the plan increased the building’s size by 70 per cent, it was “within policy.” And moreover it was not considered to be an over development.
Cllr McLean said: “If you put up solar panels and someone next to it decides to have an extension that shades them, the investment you have made will be reduced, not necessarily totally removed but you won’t get the savings or the returns to the grid of any electricty that would be created.
“The Development Control Committee would like the Cabinet to review the policy, to see whether there’s a way that we could add a planning policy that would restrict new builds, or extensions to existing buildings, that would reduce the efficiency of solar panels that are already fitted to houses nearby.
“I appreciate that might be challenging in terms of how you get the angles of sunlight, but that’s something that the development control team would like Cabinet to consider.”
Cllr Robin Bradburn echoed the concerns. He said: “It’s a very interesting case and it is very worthy of looking at because the people concerned who were the objectors had spent a lot of time and effort and money in putting solar panels. They were very concerned that it was going to be negated. It’s very worth looking at to see how we go forward from that.”
Cllr Mick Legg, the Cabinet member responsible for Customer Services, said he had already discussed the issue with the council’s professional officers. He said: “We had a brief look at this and there seem to be some legal restrictions so we will have to have a deeper look into it.”
He added that he was happy to take the recommendation forward but he did not hold out hope that this would happen quickly.
He said they would “come back after we have got Plan:MK in place.”
Plan:MK is a major planning policy document that is currently being developed to plot the future of the the city.