Landmark miners church wins fight for solar panels

Thursday January 25th 2024

Newtongrange Church Solar Panels

Photograph shows how the solar panels will look on roof of Newtongrange Parish Church.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

The former miners church which has been a landmark in Newtongrange village for nearly a century has won its fight to install solar panels to help with energy costs.

Newtongrange Parish Church, in Midlothian, was built in the early 1940s on land provided by Lothian Coal Company and is undergoing extensive refurbishment to create a community hub in the centre of the village.

But its plans to install solar panels on its roof were rejected twice by Midlothian Council planners.

This week councillors were asked to consider its third application for the energy saving addition to the building and overturned their officers recommendation to reject them.

Local councillor Douglas Bowen, who called the application before the committee, said: “Much as I love old buildings, in this case I think it is absolutely vital we allow this development.

“I know the depth of feeling in the community, they are desperate for this development to happen. If we turn it down the feeling in Newtongrange of being let down by the council is going to be huge.”

The plans were backed by the local community council and the National Mining Museum which said it would help protect a ‘valuable’ part of the community.

The church, which is at the centre of the village of Newtongrange was made a Category C listed building because of its prominence as a landmark feature.

Mhairi Cross, chief executive of the National Mining Museum wrote a letter of support for the work saying the museum “recognises this project is valuable to the community as it should revitalise the church building”.

Newtongrange Community Council said it could “only see positive in the church redevelopment” adding the use of the solar panels was being done in a sensitive way on the listed building.

However planning officers raised concerns that the panels would have a negative impact on the look of the building.

In a report recommending the proposals were rejected they said: “The site is a landmark building at the centre of Newtongrange and has a significant presence on Main Street. The installation of these solar panels would seriously diminish the special architectural interest of the church.”

During the meeting of the planning committee Councillor Dianne Alexander asked members to approve the solar panel backed by fellow councillor Kelly Drummond who said she was excited by the developments happening at the church.

She said: “It is at the heart of the community and has been out of action. It is going to be a great community facility.

“Council policies at the moment do not allow for consent but given the climate emergency and instability in the energy sector I would suggest some of these policies are out dated.”

The committee voted to approve the panels.

You can read the report submitted to the planning committee HERE.

You can watch councillors debate the planning application on the video below.


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