Is Alice still in Wonderland in Little Britain? In a tale which could have been written by Lewis Carroll - or Franz Kafka - a Hounslow council has brought all the forces of the law into action to rip down a few solar panels because they "contravene planning regulations". The local Green Party has joined local residents in pointing out the glaring inconsistencies in the Council’s decision.
When James Skinner put the solar panels on the wall of his house just off the three lane A4 in London, right opposite the monster brick edifice of the Fullers brewery, he was proud of his achievement. "I was doing my bit for the survival of the human race”, he said. He didn’t suspect that there would be any problems with this: the area is choked with traffic, and the brewer’s lorries making deliveries parked in his street add to the chaos. Hounslow council, sadly, disagreed. In a judgement worthy of the Mad Hatter, Hounslow disregarded the petition signed by nearly a nine hundred people*. They ignored the fact that out of all James' neighbours only two complained. Above all, Hounslow Council seemed to have totally forgotten their sustainability commitments: “…the council must take a lead role in reducing the borough’s carbon footprint… by ensuring… we put sustainability at the heart of everything we do”. (Source: http://www.hounslow.gov.uk/index/environment_and_planning/sustainability.htm).
The result has been a storm of protest from environmental campaigners as well as local media. In an incredible exchange of letters, the Council asserted that their reason is that it is a “Conservation Area” despite the busy industrial complex on that road. The solar panels were labelled “an eyesore”, and as they were affixed to a wall, they had to go! Even the lovely ivy James had used to beautify his wall had no effect on the hard-hearted council.
Daniel Goldsmith, Green candidate for Brentford and Isleworth said: "The people elect a council to represent the views of their residents and the residents are clearly on the side of renewable energy. This is madness. Environment and climate change indicators for Hounslow are just mediocre compared to all London boroughs and instead of taking action they find time to recommend pay increases for themselves!”.
According to Baroness Jenny Jones, Green member of the Greater London Authority and the House of Lords: “The amount of generated solar electricity has almost doubled in the UK over the last year, yet London has the lowest uptake of solar panels of any region on mainland Britain. Solar could meet a fifth of Londoner’s electricity needs, so why are people in the North of England and Scotland installing more solar, when sunny Londoners are ignoring this golden future?”