GREEN-MINDED retired GPs Basil and Rachel Thompson fought the planning law on national TV… and they won!
The couple, who live in the shadow of the City Walls, featured in BBC Two series The Planners, which documented their struggle to get planning permission for 17 solar panels on the roof of their listed home, which lies in a conservation area.
Despite being opposed by Cheshire West and Chester Council’s conservation team and its planners, the couple persuaded the councillors on the planning committee to back them unanimously.
Grandmother Dr Thompson told the programme: “We are relatively well off. We are not complaining about our electricity bills, which are somewhere in the order of £2,500 a year, but we feel very strongly that whatever we can do to cut down unsustainable energy is our obligation for future generations.”
“Our garage roof is very much in view of anybody walking along the walls but, quite honestly, I think that anybody leaning over our wall is going to look at our garden rather than worry about the solar panels. Who are you going to upset by putting a row of solar panels on a roof?”
Her husband Basil couldn’t understand why the council conservation officer was so bothered about their solar panels, given the Chester and District Housing Trust building next door looked like it was covered in ‘nothing but panels’.
He affectionately described his wife, who addressed the planning committee, as ‘a bit of a terrier’ once she got her teeth into an issue. She needn’t have worried as the committee supported their plans unanimously.
Cllr Alex Black told the committee: “I think people walking along the city walls will think, yes, it is a pretty old building and it looks very nice and how forward-thinking of the people to have the solar panels on it.”
Conservation officer John Healey argued there was a place for solar panels, but said: “For heaven’s sake not on elevations directly fronting the city wall on listed buildings.”
Asked afterwards if he thought councillors had made the right decision, he smiled: “Well, should we just cut that one!”
The only problem is the Thompsons won’t get a return on their £8,500 investment for 12 years, by which time they will both be aged 95.
Dr Thompson joked: “We reckon we need to live another 10 years to get anything back. I think we will be long gone.”