Journalist wins Selkirk solar panel battle

A well-known photojournalist has been granted planning consent to install an array of 16 solar panels on the roof of his Selkirk home.

The local review body (LRB) of Scottish Borders Council unanimously agreed on Monday that Gethin Chamberlain should be given the go-ahead for the installation at Raebank in Chapel Street

In so doing, the five councillors overturned the decision of a council planning officer who rejected Mr Chamberlain’s bid back in July.

Using delegated powers, that officer had deemed the panels would, as a result of their prominent siting, have an “adverse impact on the character and appearance of the Selkirk Conservation Area”.

Mr Chamberlain, who moved into the 19th century property last year, disagreed and lodged an appeal with the LRB.

In his submission, he said that before coming to Selkirk he had been based in India for six years as a foreign correspondent specialising in human rights and environmental investigations.

“It is important for me to demonstrate that I do not merely criticise poor practice but I take practical steps to set an example,” wrote Mr Chamberlain. “I care about the environment”.

Noting there had been no objections to his application, he cited the 40 solar panels which had been installed at Selkirk Parish Church and were clearly visible from half of High Street.

This, he claimed, set a precedent for such a development in the Conservation Area.

“I would argue these must have a more significant visual impact than 16 panels on the rear roof of a private dwelling in a back road,” said Mr Chamberlain.

And he said the planning officer’s rejection, based on a subjective view of what constituted an unacceptable impact, did not give sufficient weight to local and national policies on the importance of renewable energy and the merits of micro-generation schemes.

A former chief reporter with The Scotsman, Mr Chamberlain works for a range of international publications including The Observer, the Sunday People and the China Morning Post.

As a foreign affairs journalist, he was shortlisted in the 2014 British Jounalism Awards.