Sunday, 8 January 2012

Our domestic biomass installation starts tomorrow!!!

Tomorrow the plumbing to our thermal store is going to be rejigged to make the system work as the tank manufacturer intended and integrate our solar thermal panels and boiler as best as to make the whole thing work as efficiently and cheaply as possible. Luckily we've not got anywhere near running out of oil as we feared we might when the project had to be put on hold last autumn... ...when someone (moi) made an innocent mistake when checking the planning permission situation. My first piece of feedback about the process to the government under the Premium Payment scheme will definitely be about planning!!! I strongly suspected that getting information/advice from the local council would be a time consuming hassle so, thinking I was a person of reasonable intellect, followed the instructions on their website to establish for myself whether we would need planning permission for the new boiler's flue. When you live in a designated area - the North Wessex Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in our case - sadly things are a bit more restrictive. I say sadly because the whole reason I want to switch to biomass is to do something significant to reduce our impact on the environment - what does "natural beauty" mean on a residential street in any case? Anyway I made the mistake of not realising that we can't build a flue on the wall that is nearest the footpath that goes down between our garden and next door's without applying for planning permission. A public footpath is a "highway"... Rethink required so we decided we needed to get at least informal advice from the planners on what we can and cannot build under permitted development rights. Was not wanting to cough up the £ or more importantly wait the requisite 8 weeks (chances are longer than that eh Wiltshire Council?) it takes them to turn round the full planning permission decision - deadline the end of March 2012 to redeem my voucher and get the cash from the government! To cut a long story short we submitted an advice request (costs £60 and supposedly takes 3 weeks max.) and after 7 weeks and several reminder emails and phone calls we get an answer - the wrong answer. They are only looking at my other neighbour's property (who can build a flue wherever he pleases pretty much) and not mine! Once this is pointed out the query is sorted in 10 mins flat! We have the advice but guess what - they are only going on the same information I could access myself. So why is the advice on the government's planning portal website to contact the planning office if you are in an AONB?? Hopefully we can get this changed to help those of you thinking of going in with the Renewable Heat Initiative - wonder what proportion of properties not on mains gas are in designated areas? Just beware anyway - especially if you are up close and personal with a public footpath, bridleway, byway or genuine highway... That's the end of the boring stuff!!!!!! I'm off to bed - one more sleep... Claire


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