The Chronicle, Thursday, 17th November, 2011. www.chronicleseries.co.uk 7
Solar panel advice fee gets councillors hot under the collar
By Katie Ollier Eco-friendly residents shouldn’t have to pay for being told planning ermission isn’t required for installing solar panels, councillors have said.
Cheshire East’s Strategic Planning Board met last Wednesday to discuss the approach to lanning permission for solar panels outlined in the Town and Country Planning Order.
of written confirmation, the charge is £40.
But councillors argued that residents should not have to pay to receive a letter telling them they do not need to apply for planning permission.
Coun Brendan Murphy said: “Forty pounds for an enquiry seems to be wrong. The information should be readily available on the website so it is crystal clear. It’s going to become the Ryanair council if we are charging for advice — it’s absurd to be charging people for that.
“I know there are postage costs but it’s the principle. Where do we stop charging?”
Stephen Irvine said: “We do offer 30 minutes of free advice and when most people pay, it is because they need it in writing when they’re selling their house for example. In most cases people don’t have to pay.
“There should be an element of free service that we provide and we shouldn’t be charging for every service. I agree there has to be some balance. We charge for processing the application, not giving advice.”
Following councillors’ suggestions, Mr Irvine agreed to put something on the council website informing people of the free advice available.
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It says that permission is not required in most cases with domestic properties,
ut may be required if the solar panels are of a certain size or in a certain position on the house.
However, the council will charge a fee if planning ermission is necessary or if the householder wants written confirmation that ermission does not need to be granted. In the case
Coun Derek Hough said: “It’s £40 to get a letter saying ‘no you don’t need planning permission’. Well thank you very much. Do officers give verbal advice?
“The general problem is people are not going to know those details. Folks resent having to pay £40. I would ask to look at that charge because it’s just to tell people that they don’t need permission.”
A planning officer assured councillors that free advice was available to residents by calling the council.
Candles are potential killers, fire chiefs warn
Tealights: pretty, dangerous.
Fire chiefs are waxing lyrical over a danger that rears its head each year — candles.
Such is the risk that this is actually candle safety week and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service is encouraging candle-
urners to stay safe. Candles may seem a trivial matter but they caused more than 1,000 fires across England last year, 17 of which were in Staffordshire and resulted in six casualties.
A safer option is electronic tea lights, which can be purchased for a small cost and are battery operated instead of requiring a flame.
“These electronic candles are just as effective at creating an atmosphere but are much safer than a candle,” said Mr Steele.
Tips on using candles safety include:
• never leave candles unattended or go to sleep while they are lit;
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Earlier this year, a 79-yearold woman from Stoke-on-Trent died in a house fire that was started by candles.
The service’s risk reduction manager, Dave Steele, said: “People tend to use candles more during the winter months, as a source of light, heat or just decoration but it is important that they are aware of the dangers candles can pose.
“Candles should never be left nattended and extinguished roperly before going to bed. They should also be placed away from curtains and other combustible materials and should not be placed on top of a television .”
Candles should always be in a roper candle holder on a flat and stable surface. Tea lights should only be used on a heat-resistant surface such as a ceramic plate.
• leave plenty of space above and around the candle and its holder;
• place candles in a draughtfree area away from curtains, furniture and other flammable surfaces;
• always use a proper candleholder and fit the candle in firmly;
• make sure candles are put on a surface that is flat and stable;
• always use a heat-resistant surface such as a ceramic plate for tea lights;
• never place candles on top of televisions;
• keep candles out of reach of children and pets;
• never attempt to move a candle once it is lit;
• always use a candle-snuffer, or an upturned metal spoon to extinguish the candle and allow cooling before moving it.
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