Historic East Lothian house gets green light to install solar panels on plot

Owners of a historic mansion have been given the green light to install solar panels in a field to cut costs for an underground heating system.

Giffordbank House in the village of Gifford, East Lothian, is served by a geothermal heat pump, installed three years ago to provide carbon-free heating to the house and a nearby cottage.

In a bid to reduce running costs, the owners wanted to install solar panels but were unable to install them on the roof or in the garden of the Grade B listed building.

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Instead, they asked for a change in use of the agricultural field to allow them to put 54 ground-mounted panels in a field next to the houses.

East Lothian Council planners approved the proposals despite receiving an objection from a resident who feared the signs would impact the view of the open field at the entrance to the village.

The planning officers judged that the small size of the project would not be detrimental to the view of the land.

The claimants’ agents said the heat pumps had replaced the inefficient oil-fired boiler and electric storage heaters.

They said: “Despite efficiency measures such as improved insulation and the installation of underfloor heating, electricity costs to run the heat pump are high.

“The plaintiffs therefore seek to install photovoltaic solar panels to generate electricity to support the operation of the heat pump.

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“Given the Category B status of Giffordbank House, it will not be possible to install them on the roof and it is proposed that the array be ground mounted in the field.”

Planning officials said placing the signs in the garden of the listed house would be ‘undesirable’ and judged the use of the land would not result in ‘significant loss of prime farmland’.

They said: “In their positions, the array of solar panels would not be visible in public view of them.

“They would not appear as detrimental, intrusive or incongruous features in their landscape surroundings.”