Church launches legal challenge after refused planning permission for solar panels

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A listed church has launched a legal challenge against a national park after it was refused planning permission to install solar panels on its roof.

Wardens want to make the 280-year-old grade II listen St Anne's Church more energy efficient by installing 28 solar panels on its slate roof.

But planning chiefs at the Lake District National Park refused permission as they would hide the slate roof of the Georgian church in the village of Ings, near Kendal.

In its ruling, the authority said the plans "would represent a visual intrusion, disruption and contrast in the consistency of materials displayed in the building."

It ruled it would be have an "adverse impact on the outstanding universal values of the English Lakes World Heritage Site and the character of the local area".

However, a church judge from the Diocese of Carlisle has blessed the plans, giving official Church of England backing to an appeal by the church's wardens.

Church warden John Hiley, 75, said: "We are all absolutely on the same page - so much happens in the church.

"The view of the south-facing roof is extremely restricted and you can hardly see it unless you are infront of the church.

"But in the majority of the village, you can't see it anyway. There's three residents who can see the roof and they are all shocked at the national park's decision."

The authority said the church, which dates back to 1743 with a roof made of "weathered local slate", is of "high historic significance".

Its decision was supported by conservation groups the Georgian Group and Historic England.

But locals in the village have voiced their support for the plans, which they say are much-need for a more sustainable energy resource.

Parish councillor Paul Riley, 67, has lived next to the church for 15 years and says nobody has any objections.

He said: "The daft thing is, is that we want sustainability and we want to keep it as a church and need to help it pay its way, so nobody has any objections.

"I'm sure they will look as nice as possible. There's only a few people who could see them, that's including me, and none of us are complaining about it whatsoever.

"It's because it's a historical building and a listed building but to us, there's no logical reason why you couldn't do it."

Everley Buckley, 75, has lived in the village all of his life and is 'totally in favour' of the panels because they 'wouldn't be seen from anywhere'.

He said: "I'm totally in favour of them - they are not visible apart from three little houses so they aren't even visible from the main road.

"They wouldn't been seen from anywhere really.

"A lot of cathedrals in the country have solar panels on them now - and they will be much more visible than what these will be.

"It's a very well looked after church and the community is very thriving community and nearly everyone is in support of doing this."

Barrister James Fryer-Spedding from the Church’s Consistory Court, has given his blessing to the scheme.

In his judgment, he considered the panels would cause 'moderate but not significant harm' to the church as a building of special architectural or historic interest.

Judge Fryer-Spedding also took into the account the church's aims to lower its carbon footprint.

He said: “My assessment is that the moderate harm that will result to the significance of the Church from the implementation of the proposals is outweighed by the benefits of installing a solar panel system.”

He gave the Consistory Court’s go-ahead for the scheme, provided that planning consent is ultimately granted.