Janet's Solar Power of Persuasion; GO GREEN-With Climbing Fuel Prices and the Growing Climate Change Concerns, One Woman Is Making a Statement by Using Renewable Energy Her Controversial Photovoltaic Cells Are Meant to Get People Talking

Coventry Evening Telegraph (England), November 10, 2008 | Go to article overview

Janet's Solar Power of Persuasion; GO GREEN-With Climbing Fuel Prices and the Growing Climate Change Concerns, One Woman Is Making a Statement by Using Renewable Energy Her Controversial Photovoltaic Cells Are Meant to Get People Talking


Byline: By Mary Griffin, ENVIRONMENT REPORTER

A NEW array of solar panels has been making waves in Leamington.

Grandmother Janet Alty has fixed the giant panels to the side of her Lillington Road home - slap bang in the middle of a conservation area.

When Mrs Alty first came up with the idea, council officers recommended planning permission should be refused.

But Warwick District Councillors overruled the advice, giving the eyecatching alterations the thumbs-up.

Now the panels take pride of place on the corner house, sitting directly beneath Mrs Alty's roof-mounted wind turbine.

The renewable energy enthusiast is even encouraging passers-by to talk about her new gadgets by displaying a poster in her kitchen window.

She said: "Yes, I realise it's controversial.

"I realise it's 'in your face' and a bold statement but that's the plan - to get people talking about it.

"One person said he thinks it's a piece of modern art.

"When I applied for it I knew it was 50/50, and I didn't really expect to get the application through.

"But the councillors on the planning committee voted for it."

Council planning officer Fiona Blundell, who recommended the application be refused, reckons councils will see more and more applicants wanting to install renewable technology in the future.

She said: "You have to weigh the benefit of renewable energy against the protection, preservation and enhancement of the conservation area which has been designated because of its special historic and architectural interest.

"It's a judgment between promoting renewables and promoting the local environment and how it looks.

"With concern about energy, the price of fuel and climate change, we'll probably see more and more plans for renewables.

"Whether or not that's within conservation areas is difficult to say."

Mrs Alty's semi-detached house already sports solar thermal panels on the south-facing roof, generating heat to warm the building's water.

The latest solar panels are photovoltaic, generating electricity to power household appliances.

The house also hosts double and secondary glazing, thick insulation and a woodburner, which Mrs Alty fuels with scrap wood from skips.

She has lived there for more than 40 years and has added to her renewable technology collection bit-by-bit since her husband died.

"The integrity of the conservation of this building is absolute. I've maintained it in every way.

"People have knocked on the door and said 'I think it's wonderful, I think it's fantastic'."

But not everyone has given the new landmark such a warm welcome.

"The whole of this area was in uproar about it," she said.

"Some people need a focus for their anger and this provides it.

"It's never a rational, reasoned or well debated case. It's just 'This makes me angry'.

"Nobody who's been against it has said anything more than 'It's an eyesore'."

Some residents have complained that conservation areas should be protected from large installations, claiming advertising billboards could be next.

But Mrs Alty is standing her ground.

"This is doing something very seriously necessary," she said.

"Decorating a building to advertise is not in the same category at all. …

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