Northumberland County Council forced to apply for more retrospective planning permissions as confusion continues over energy installations

Northumberland County Council is seeking three more approvals where it has been caught out by planning rules on renewable energy installations.

By Ben O'Connell
Tuesday, 26th November 2019, 5:29 pm
Updated Saturday, 30th November 2019, 1:03 am
Northumberland County Council
Northumberland County Council

At its meeting on Tuesday, members of the strategic planning committee are being recommended to grant retrospective permission to the local authority itself for three separate applications.

They relate to ground source heat pumps at Seahouses Primary School, Cambois Primary School and Ashington Community Football Club.

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At the September meeting, the green light was given retrospectively for a heat pump at the authority’s depot at Stakeford.

As is the case with the latest proposals, the issue only came to light when the council applied to claim its payments under the Renewable Heat Incentives (RHI) scheme and sought advice from the planning department, which confirmed that it did need permission.

At that meeting, Coun Ian Swithenbank said: “I know we have to treat retrospective applications like any other, but it hardly sets a good example to the rest of Northumberland.”

But planning officer Katherine Robbie also warned that it wasn’t the only application of this type, with private businesses also being caught out by the rules, although only bids by the council itself would likely have to be decided by the committee.

Councillors were also told that this is a complicated situation as these installations are often covered by permitted development rights, but an application is required where the system lies outside the curtilage of the building and/or it contains more than one pump.

This is also the case in the latest trio of applications, as the Seahouses set-up features three heat pumps, at Cambois there are two pumps, while at Ashington CFC, there are also two plus it is also housed outside the existing curtilage of the building.