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Solar, so good

Letters

I was disturbed to read the extract from The Daily Telegraph in Newsstand (NCE 1 February) that the cross-party trade and industry committee of MPs has recommended the relaxation of planning rules with respect to the installation of wind turbines, and solar panels on the roofs of houses.

As a former chairman of the ICE Energy Board, I am in favour of increased renewable energy in the home, particularly from solar heating and photovoltaic panels. Indeed, I believe that most houses could be self-sufficient in electricity on an annual basis Fitting these panels to new build houses can be attractive architecturally. But retrofitting to existing building stock is much more difficult.

The random distribution of panels and skylights over the roofs of an otherwise uniform streetscape can easily result in visual confusion and destroy a fine piece of architecture.

I am engaged in the preparation of a town design statement for the small Hampshire market town of Alton. We will be making recommendations encouraging the use of renewable energy but suggesting that solar panels are not placed on the street frontage of buildings that have been designed as an ensemble.

I accept that, when the street frontage is the only south-facing aspect, these panels will not be as efficient.

Nevertheless, the architectural appearance is also important, especially when a coherent streetscape is involved and a balance has to be achieved.

It is vital that where a conservation area of special architectural merit is involved, the planning regulations be maintained and the conservation officer be involved.

EJM Hepper (F) Uplands, 61 Queens Road, Alton, Hants GU34 1JG

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