Epsom Council is currently locking horns with its residents over solar panel installations which it believes damage the ‘character and visual quality’ of the area. According to Your Local Guardian, two Epsom homeowners, who have each paid up to £14,000 for the installation of solar panels, have been ordered to remove the systems from their rooftops.

Andrew Minhinnick installed £8,000 of rooftop panels in October 2010 after calling in surveyors and following council guidelines. Epsom and Ewell Council have since issued an enforcement order to remove them.

“I live in a close so there is no through traffic and there are only two houses that can see the front of my house,” he said.

“What planning seems to be saying is that they don’t want any solar panels on the front of houses in the Epsom borough. That seems to be at odds with Government strategy, what is going on with conservation and to be quite frank, common sense.”

“People are spending thousands of pounds on doing this and they are going to put them through financial hardship for something that is purely opinion based.”

Minhinnick is appealing the decision and says he will not take the panels down.

John Sandison, of 1st Solar PV Ltd, has also been asked to remove some of his 16 solar panels after installing them at his home in East Ewell, at a cost of £14,000.

“Councillors should get their act together and say unless it is blatantly ridiculous we should allow it as permitted development. They are being massively overcautious,” Sandison explained.

While homeowners do not need planning permission to install solar installations at the microgeneration level, they must be fitted to ‘minimise visual impact and impact to the amenity of the area.’

A spokesperson for Epsom and Ewell Council said, “It is the council’s opinion that the installation of solar panels at these properties would go against the interests of preserving the character and visual quality of the borough, however an agreeable solution will be sought where possible.”

“Anyone who needs advice about installing solar panels, especially whether the panels would have an impact on visual amenity or not, would need to use the pre-application advice procedure.”

A conclusion is yet to be met.