Friday, 9 November 2012

Investment for the future or filthy carbunkle?

Where's Prince Charles when you need him?

In the week which brought us Ben Pile's little movie about wind farms and the appalling environmental damage they wreak, I stumbled across news that, in North Norfolk, one council is contemplating trying to put a stop to another form of eco-inspired vandalism.

Photo: Andrew Kelly

This is a house in a conservation area - you know, one of those areas where you are lucky if you don't have to contact the planning department before you change the colour of your front door and you certainly would need planning permission before, say, installing double glazing (which permission, incidentally, you almost certainly wouldn't get). So you might be forgiven for thinking that you wouldn't get permission to install solar panels on the front roof. Clearly that's the view the Council is taking and that's why they are now considering forcing the owner to remove them.

But this isn't the only place where solar panels are being installed with total disregard to their effect on the street scape. And the scary thing is that the law in this area, although recently reviewed and redrafted, is still a little bit vague. The weasel words are: Panels on a building should be sited, so far as is practicable, to minimise the effect on the external appearance of the building and the amenity of the area. You see the problem. As far as is practicable. But what if the only southerly facing roof aspect is at the front of the house, then surely, it is only practicable for the panels to be sited there.

Frankly, this appalls me. Are we seriously saying that a few extra green kilowatts are worth destroying our built environment? Or is it the serious money to be made from those generous feed in tariffs that's behind this?

Of course, the green lobby don't get my concerns at all. Indeed many of them believe their panels are things of beauty. The picture below for example is actually used for advertisement.

Note the sun glinting off the blue panels. Note also the total lack of harmony with the terracotta coloured roof tiles.

Of course, some do accept that conventional panels are not that attractive, but they disintegrate into rapturous adoration of some of the more environmentally-friendly versions.

Now this one really horrifies me. It's described as 'gorgeous' by ecogeek. Gorgeous? OK so the texture of the panels is in keeping with the rustic tiles, but the colour? It's ghastly. It looks like someone's dropped ink all over the picture. That deep, stark indigo cuts through the muted ochres, terracottas and greens of the the rest of the image like a hot knife through butter.

And it's not only the beauty of buildings that are harmed by these carbunkles. Here's the view from the villa we rented this summer is the stunning Abruzzo mountains in Italy:

 Idyllic isn't it? But wait? Can you see that blueish smudge over the the right hand side? Here's a detail:

Yep. Solar panels. Three vast arrays slap bang in the middle of an exquisite landscape. Same colour tone problem here too.

So here's a question. Why is it OK for environmentalists to destroy the environment? Are we all really that convinced that mankind is headed to annihilation? What happened to preserving our heritage for future generations?

Or are the tweenies destined to be characterised by shiny slate blue installations in the same way as the seventies is by its tackily-built boxes and the sixties by its ugly high rises? So sad. I thought we'd learnt from those mistakes.


  1. "Are we seriously saying that a few extra green kilowatts are worth destroying our built environment?"

    Turn it around. Are you really saying it's worth ignoring the destruction of the natural environment (plus humanity) for the sake of preserving a few bits of the built environment? And even non-significant, transient housing at that?

    Perspective! Priorities! If we don't sort the energy crisis, your children will have a lot more to worry about than whether roof tiles are attractive!

  2. There are other ways to solve the energy crisis and frankly solar panels in Britain isn't the answer, espcially when the driving force for them are the ludicrously generous feed in tariffs. As always we need to look at who benefits. And at the moment I'd say it's all those companies pushing us to install solar panels so we can 'save' a few pounds of on our fuel bills and they can rake in those tarrifs.

    Frankly it's naive to think otherwise - so I will carry on shouting for the environment - all of it.