An eco-friendly resident hoping to turn his house into a zero-carbon home was astonished to spend weeks arguing with Barnet Council over an energy-saving device.
Climate-conscious Iain Duncan wanted to fit a heat pump to cut his carbon emissions but was told to pay £1,000 for a noise assessment – and says it took six weeks of arguing before the council backed down.
Mr Duncan, who lives in Cricklewood, says the council should be encouraging people to cut their carbon footprint and warned its attitude could deter people from making energy-saving changes to their homes.
He said: “If this was Barnet or any other council’s standard response, you can see there is not just a lack of incentive to normal people, but an active incentive cut.
“How are normal people going to embrace it? The vast majority of people would be, ‘sod that, I’m getting a new boiler’.”
Working for an energy firm and specialising in low-carbon homes, Mr Duncan says he is keen to practice what he preaches. So he set about replacing the gas boiler in his home with an air source heat pump – a gadget that absorbs heat from the outside air.
Mr Duncan applied for planning permission to install the heat pump but, after twelve weeks of waiting for a decision, he was told he would have to pay £1,000 for a noise assessment. The homeowner claimed this was unnecessary because the gadget would produce a similar level of noise to the gas boiler.
He said: “The reason this really bothers me is that gas boilers contribute as much carbon as a car. These things last for 15 years. It is not a trivial decision.
Every council in the country has a job to do here. The council needs to gear up for thousands of these heat pumps going in.
“One of the things that frustrates me was the people that asked me to have this noise assessment done [were from] environmental health. Surely their job is to do what is best for the environment?”
Mr Duncan said after around six weeks of arguing with the council – and after writing to councillors and his local MP – it eventually dropped its call for a noise assessment. Instead, Mr Duncan submitted a microgeneration certification scheme assessment to show the noise produced by the heat pump would not be excessive.
A council spokesperson said: “The council is supportive of small-scale renewable energy installations on houses in the borough, the majority of which do not require permission. If permission is required, then the council needs to be sure that noise and other impacts on neighbours are minimised.
“Air source heat pumps can be installed to a house without the need for planning permission. In Mr Duncan’s case it did require permission because of the specific circumstances of his property. As such, the local planning authority had to consider the possible impact on the amenities of neighbours.
“Planning permission was granted but subject to a condition requiring a noise report for the pump to be submitted for approval. Such reports normally need to be carried out by an acoustic specialist, and following discussions with planning and environmental health officers, Mr Duncan submitted sufficient information to satisfy requirements.”
Source : times