Monday, 16 August 2010

Planning LOLs

This is nice, a story with a happy ending for a change.

Last week, I was intermittently staring into space and following Twitter (an activity that unfortunately seems to make up about 80% of my waking hours) and saw that one of my Twitter contacts (called Tom) seemed to be having a bit of a giggle with the planning department at NCC.

Tom and his missus had decided to do the decent thing and get themselves a solar water heating system fitted to their house, which is an excellent thing to do and something that you'd think that NCC would fall over themselves to encourage. Normally you don't need planning permission for these things but Tom lives in a conservation area so it seems he was advised that he did have to. All went well and permission was granted last year.

However just recently he decided to use a different design of system, replacing two of these -

with just one of these -

Now you'd think that would be an improvement. Only one panel instead of two? Apparently not. Here's the first of Tom's several tweets on the decision he initially received -

Yes that's right. Planners at NCC were making a distinction between solar panels that were in character in a conservation area and solar panels that weren't. That's solar panels they're talking about (I think the area concerned is late Victorian/Edwardian but I'm not sure). Perhaps you're supposed to have that lead diamond pattern stuck on to make them look olde worlde.

This from a council that had just loudly trumpeted its new 'low carbon' waste strategy and which is quite happy to bulldoze the Victoria Leisure Centre, which is also in a conservation area by the way. Consistent much?

Here's a later tweet by Tom. I include it because it's such a perfect summing up of the issue at hand -

But, as I said, this story does have a happy ending and NCC does in fact redeem itself. On Saturday, Tom tweeted this -

I actually doubt that fear of NCCLols played any significant part but yes, the planners have backed down. The decision even says that his solar panel counts as 'permitted development' so doesn't even need planning permission after all. That's some climbdown.

Tom says he only mentioned it out loud on Twitter. While I don't think I quite wield the power to strike fear in the hearts of the men and womenfolk of NCC's planning department I do have a few NCC peeps following me. I did retweet a couple of Tom's posts and maybe someone from NCC saw them or Tom's originals and had a quiet word.

So who knows, maybe I did help but I'm more inclined to simply chalk it up to the power of Twitter this time. The main thing is that Tom and his family can get on with saving a bit of fossil fuel which we all benefit from. And perhaps others nearby who want to carry out similar works will have an easier time of it. I just hope he didn't have to spend too much on preparing what appear to have been unnecessary planning applications.

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