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Judge overturns planning permission in landmark solar panel ruling saying they make small contribution to climate change fight

By Medway Messenger reporter

An engineer who says his neighbour’s extension plans will block light to his solar panels has won a landmark High Court victory in his fight to stop the project.

In a ruling that broke new legal ground, a judge said Bill McLennan’s solar panels demand respect as a small contribution to the fight against climate change.

Mr McLennan generates power from an array of solar panels on the south-facing wall of his home in Wilson Avenue, Rochester.

The solar panels lead to a dispute. Picture: Google (13679398)
The solar panels lead to a dispute. Picture: Google (13679398)

He fiercely objected when his next-door neighbour, Ken Kennedy, sought planning permission for a rear extension, complete with dormer window.

Mr McLennan said the extension would “overshadow” his mini solar energy plant, which generates up to 11Kw of power per day in direct sunlight.

But Medway Council granted permission in December last year, saying the loss of light to the solar panels was irrelevant in planning terms.

But in a ruling which will send shockwaves through the planning system, Mr Justice Lane has overturned the council’s “irrational” decision.

The judge acknowledged that Mr McLennan’s panels only make a “very modest” contribution to reducing carbon emissions.

But, overturning the permission, he added: “Mitigation of climate change is a legitimate planning consideration”.

Mr McLennan said the shadow cast by the extension would “severely degrade the power output” of his micro-energy generation system.

But the council said that was a purely private matter between him and Mr Kennedy and was not a “material planning consideration.”

The extension would be in keeping with the area and would have no major impact on sunlight reaching Mr McLennan’s garden or living rooms.

But Mr McLennan insisted that the fight against climate change by promoting renewable energy sources is in the public interest and not merely a private matter.

Read more: All the latest news from Medway

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