Planning rules creak in face of new demands in West Lothian

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A bid to install new double glazing and solar panels onto two old properties has sparked a warning over tough decisions councillors will face between preserving ancient townscapes and pushing for a climate-friendly future.

With the growing need to insulate homes and the development of alternative energy sources such as solar panels and external heat pumps, planning laws are starting to creak with age, with the rules on double glazing currently more than 30 years old.

In Linlithgow, two proposals involving the installation of double glazing and solar panels were rejected by West Lothian’s Local Review Body as being out of character with the area and fundamentally altering the look of buildings.

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Councillor Willie Boyle supported the decisions – to demand the removal of uPVC windows from the Masonic Lodge in the centre of the town and refusing solar panels and new windows in a Victorian villa in Avon Place.

13 Avon Place, Strawberry Bank, Linlithgow.13 Avon Place, Strawberry Bank, Linlithgow.
13 Avon Place, Strawberry Bank, Linlithgow.

But he told the meeting that how they handle new technologies such as solar panels is “a conversation we are going to have to have”.

The Masonic Lodge had appealed after planners had rejected a retrospective application to cover new uPVC windows installed in the 1906 building in Market Lane. Planners argued the uPVC windows had an adverse effect on the visual amenity of the area surrounding, including the nearby Linlithgow Palace. The Review Body agreed.

Meanwhile at 13 Avon Place, Strawberry Bank, Nick Watt appealed against refusal of his proposals to remove stone mullions on front windows and replace them with large picture windows affording views across the town.

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He also wanted to install solar panels and Velux roof windows in the large house which until recently had operated as a bed and breakfast. Planning officers described the six solar panels, each almost 6ft x 3.5ft as “large”.

The Masonic Lodge in Market Lane.The Masonic Lodge in Market Lane.
The Masonic Lodge in Market Lane.

An agent for Mr Watt said in written submissions that the panels would help his client control heating costs for the large property. The plan had also placed the panels on the rear elevation of the house to minimise their visual impact on the street.

Councillor Boyle said he couldn’t support the alterations to the building. The committee agreed.

Planning officers confirmed that existing rules on windows had been in place for 34 years and there was an acknowledgement that advances had been made. However the review is still in its early stages.

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Councillor Boyle later told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “How are we going to address the demands for things like solar panels in places like Linlithgow? It’s a discussion we are going to have to have as a council.”