Landmark planning decision to allow Limerick solar panels

Elzbieta Pasinska who was successful in her appeal to An Bord Pleanala. Photo: Liam Burke

A LANDMARK decision to allow a Limerick resident to keep the solar panels on the roof of her home in Dooradoyle has opened the way for more use of solar energy in homes across the country.

An Bord Pleanala overruled its own inspector to allow Elzbieta Joanna Pasinska to retain 21 solar panels on the front roof of her home at Gouldavoher Estate in Dooradoyle.

Current regulations require planning permission for more than seven solar panels. Limerick City and County Council’s decision to refuse the application for 21 panels was appealed by Ms Pasinska to An Bord Pleanala.

Senior Planning Inspector for the Appeals Bord, Mary Kennelly, had cited the character of the estate of similar style houses where the ‘scale and extent’ of the panels would affect the townscape.

She advised that ‘the cumulative effect of additional roof slopes being covered by panels in the vicinity of the site would be likely to further alter the character of this part of the estate and result in visual disharmony and clutter’.

Pointing out that no evidence had been produced to support the applicant’s statement that 21 panels were required to meet her home’s energy requirements, Ms Kennelly also noted that no alternatives were considered such as free-standing arrays, or any evidence provided that glint and glare would not be ‘give rise to detriment to residential amenity’.

But the Board rejected all of the Inspector’s recommendations:

‘In deciding not to accept the Inspector’s recommendation to refuse permission for retention, the Board considered that the development would not be visually obtrusive, would not give rise to nuisance from glint and glare, would not seriously injure the visual or residential amenities of the area, and would not establish an undesirable precedent.’

Environmental groups Community Power, Friends of the Irish Environment, Friends of the Earth, and An Taisce, who had all made submissions supporting Ms. Pasinska, welcomed the decision.

Ian Lumley, An Taisce’s Advocacy Officer, said that ’the case caused widespread concern in impeding the advancement of rooftop solar PV in Ireland and is an important precedent for accommodating domestic roof installations in the major part of the national housing stock outside of architectural heritage protected areas’.

Tony Lowes of Friends of the Irish Environment said that the Minister should immediately amend the planning regulations by way of a statutory instrument.”

And Kate Ruddock of Friends of the Earth welcomed the decision to support small scale renewable energy generation for Ireland, saying that “we need to see more people, communities, farms and businesses enabled to take part in this transition away from fossil fuels.”