Blogging for the environment

Many important ideas have been with us for thouands of years. Great philosophers or great religious people have written down their ideas and that enabled their ideas to be spread and adopted. Environmental philosophy is still a tiny embryo. It needs the food of ideas, tested and examined ideas, in order to grow.

Some ideas are undeveloped and need an active and reactive audience to help formulate them and refine and define them. In ancient days the students of the academy served this function; in more more times there often happend a coming together of like minded people, at universities, schools and in religious institutions. Today the best active and reactive audience lies on the internet, and that is why I blog.

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Planning permission for solar – Waiting for change

On 26th June 2006 Sam Greenhill reported in the Daily Mail that the Government was thinking of making changes to the planning laws to make sure that there was no need to obtain consent to put up solar panels and wind turbines.

He quoted the Housing Minister Yvette Cooper as saying

 “it is patently absurd that you should be able to a satellite dish on your house but have to wrestle with the planning process for small scale microgeneration (sic), which is no more obtrusive and can have a real impact on tackling climate change.” 

The microgeneration industry has been agitating for this change to the planning laws for several years before 2006. I would have thought that changing planning regulations in such a small and obvious way is a very easy thing for a government to do once the Government Minister in charge of such things recognises that a change is needed to alleviate climate change.

Certainly in the case of solar panels which fit at or very slightly above the roof line, there can be no aesthetic objection. The case for small scale wind turbines has yet to be entirely made; if they are sited so that they do generate useful power then the aesthetics have to come after the carbon savings. In any event climate change alleviation is more important than contemporary taste in urban design.

Changing the planning regulations for solar panels should have been easy for Yvette Cooper. She is a clever person who has had a good education – at Oxford University, Harvard and the London School of Economics. Her job officially requires her to take “lead” responsibility for housing policy and programmes including low and zero carbon housing and eco homes. She also has responsibility for climate change. 

Her quotation that I have set out indicates that the change is so obvious so simple to her that in a matter of months we should all have been living under a planning regime where the rules for installing solar panels would be relaxed and as simple as those that relate to satellite dishes. 

Well, that was in June 2006. It looks like the rules will finally be created in April 2008 – nearly two years later. I cannot think of a simpler thing for such a clever person to do or one that fits more vitally into her responsibilities. There is therefore a real puzzle; why is it taking her so long?