Magistrates court could face enforcement action over solar panels

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

Norwich Magistrates Court could face action over solar panels which have been installed. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood - Credit: Archant

It is the place people are sent to face justice when they have fallen foul of the rules.

But Norwich Magistrates Court itself could be facing enforcement action over a breach of regulations over 47 solar panels fixed to the building's roof.

As part of a nationwide effort to improve the carbon footprints of its buildings, the Ministry of Justice has began looking into fixing solar panels to the roofs of its buildings.

The MoJ listed the services of estates company Cushman and Wakefield to investigate where panels could be installed on each building, including the magistrates court in Norwich.

A location on the western side of the building was identified and 47 panels were fixed to the roof.

But it was only once this job was complete that the company discovered the project would require the benefit of planning permission to go ahead.

It has now left the court trying to obtain retrospective planning permission for the panels to avoid facing enforcement action from Norwich City Council.

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However, should permission be refused, it could be forced to pull the panels down and re-apply.

A retrospective application has been lodged on behalf of the magistrates court, with talks already under way between the MoJ and the council to resolve the error.

Papers submitted with the application say that council officers "advised that the city council would not consider any enforcement action until the application has been submitted and considered on its merits".

An MoJ spokesman said the application was lodged as soon as it became apparent that planning permission was necessary. 

In some circumstances, panels can be fixed to non-domestic buildings as 'permitted development', meaning local authority permission is not needed. However, with the magistrates court being located in a city centre conservation area, this was not the case.

The papers say: "The roof-mounted photovalatic installations will provide sustainable energy to power a substantial proportion of the requirements of each court property, which will make a significant contribution to reducing energy demands from carbon-based energy generators and accelerating the UK’s transition to net zero carbon by 2050."

Norwich City Council will decide if the panels can remain in due course.