Obstacles to going green

Sir – The juxtaposition in your letters (WHT, June 11) from Dennis Lewis and Michel Saminaden alongside a green advertisement emphasises an important point: whether local policies support or thwart national policies. Dennis rues the national government

Sir - The juxtaposition in your letters (WHT, June 11) from Dennis Lewis and Michel Saminaden alongside a 'green' advertisement emphasises an important point: whether local policies support or thwart national policies.

Dennis rues the national government's failure to have an energy strategy and plans to cope with the rising price of oil. Michel extols the virtues of the borough council in introducing measures that help local residents - including combating the rise in the cost of energy.

In fact, national government does have at least one energy-saving policy: it gives householders £400 grants towards the cost of installing solar heating.

It might be expected that local government would support this, by making it easy for householders to install solar heating. My experience is otherwise. In January I accepted a quotation from an approved provider for such an installation, but to qualify for the grant, I need first to provide written confirmation from the council that planning permission is not required or, if it is required, that it has been granted. Early this year the provider tried to ascertain if planning permission was required and he tells me that he received no answer. I too tried (on April 10) to get this information from the council planning department, having seen a report in The Times in March that from April it was no longer required.


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My first enquiry was not answered, so I tried again and was told I could not use the telephone to enquire: I had to send an e-mail. This I did, but had not received an answer after a month. So I called in at the council offices to find out what the problem was. A planning officer came to see me and showed me a circular from national government explaining the change in the regulations.

He said that the meaning of the circular was obscure; having looked at it myself, that seemed like an understatement! He referred me to another council officer, who deals with energy-saving. I telephoned him and he told me that he was not authorised to deal with questions relating to planning permission.

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By now exasperated, and on the advice of yet another official from the planning department, I wrote a letter to the chief planning officer on May 26, enclosing additional information that I had been led to believe would be required before the question could be answered (ie plans showing where the solar panels would be located). By June 11 I had had no reply either from the chief planning officer himself or from the particular member of his department who deals with such enquiries.

No doubt there are reasons why householders can't readily obtain answers to apparently simple questions, but the practical consequence is that I continue to consume fossil-fuel energy, the combustion of which emits greenhouse gases, when by now I should be obtaining energy from the sun - if only local policies supported instead of thwarting national policies.

Should not the council be positively encouraging local householders to install solar energy systems, instead of placing obstacles in the way? And should not this form part of the Council's environmental policy?

Bertie Everard, Fern Grove, WGC.

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