Medway Council has been told to refuse a planning application for the installation of solar panels on the council’s very own HQ.
The council submitted the planning application to install eight new solar panels on its headquarters in Gun Wharf, with the project estimated to produce 42.9 MWh per year. That would have gone some way to reducing the carbon footprint of the council, with Gun Wharf reported to constitute 71% of the council’s total energy consumption.
The planning application is expected to go before Medway Council’s planning committee on June 29, but a report from the council’s planning officers has recommended that the planning permission be refused. The report notes that the solar panels would be harmful to the character of the Grade II listed building.
In a peculiar twist of events, Medway Council has already installed 26 sections of 15 solar panels on the south, east and west facing roofs of Gun Wharf, all of which are internally facing. However, the report notes that these panels aren’t noticeable, therefore do not alter the characteristics of the Grade II listed building, whereas the new panels would.
The report noted, “The proposed photovoltaic panels would be highly visible on the externally facing sloping roof on the south facing southern elevation of Gun Wharf. Due to the cumulative impact of the proposed panels and the fact that the roof slope elevation that they sit on is highly visible, it is considered that the proposal would result in the loss of the integrity of the original roof finish, materials, and its original design intention to this Grade II listed building.
“It is generally not considered sympathetic to a building’s appearance to have a solar panel or other equipment fixed to its main elevations. Although not considered the principal elevation, the proposed panels would be visible from the car park, the public footpath leading down to the river, and from the riverside walk facing the building. The prominent siting and tiered roof formation of Gun Wharf also increases the visibility of the proposal.”
It’s possible that Medway Council could overturn Medway Council’s decision to reject Medway Council’s planning application, although it could constitute a controversial move. The sticking point with the installation of solar panels comes down to Gun Wharf’s designation as a Grade II listed building, some worry that approving the plans on Gun Wharf could set a precedent for other Grade II listed buildings to gain planning permission for similar schemes.
Removing Gun Wharf’s Grade II listed designation could be a solution to this whole saga, but according to Councillor Stuart Tranter on Twitter, the council investigated the option of having the listing removed, only to be told it was not possible.