Solar panels put on magistrates' court without permission can stay

Norwich Magistrates Court heard Julie Cutting, 52, kicked a dog several times. PICTURE: Jamie Honeyw

The solar panels on the roof of Norwich Magistrates' Court will not need to be removed. - Credit: Archant

Dozens of solar panels were fixed to the roofs of Norwich Magistrates' Court without planning permission - but  will not need to be removed.

The Ministry of Justice, as part of a nationwide effort to improve the carbon footprints of its buildings, had 47 panels installed on roofs of the court building in Bishopgate.

But, it was only once work was completed that Cushman and Wakefield, enlisted to install the panels, discovered the project should have secured planning permission.

In some circumstances, panels can be fixed to non-domestic buildings as 'permitted development', so permission from councils is not needed.

But the magistrates' court is in the designated city centre conservation area, so permission from Norwich City Council should have been obtained before the work was done.

Retrospective planning permission had to be sought from City Hall - or the council could have taken enforcement action ordering the removal of the panels.

But permission was granted and planning officer Jacob Revell said: "The law courts themselves are not of particular architectural merit, but do occupy space within a sensitive area, particularly in views of Grade I listed building.

"The roof slopes impacted, particularly that facing onto Whitefriars, are prominent within the Conservation Area.

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"However, it is considered that the addition of solar panelling on this elevation is not harmful to the character of the conservation area.

"The solar panels are of a relatively low profile and will match the
existing roof slope.

"It is not considered that the addition of solar panelling here will detract from long views of the aforementioned heritage assets.

"The proposals are considered to cause less than substantial harm to the city centre conservation area and to the setting of the Grade I listed heritage assets St Martin at Palace Church and Norwich Cathedral.

"This harm is considered to have been minimised as far as possible and is considered to be outweighed by the public benefits of providing renewable energy to serve this substantial public building."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the application was lodged as soon as it became apparent planning permission was necessary.

A further 56 panels which have been installed do not require planning permission as they do not face the conservation area.