Solar bid is pulled as green groups fight on

Hampshire police and crime commissioner Michael Lane. Picture: Malcolm Wells

Police commissioner dishes out £712,000 to groups after ‘protecting’ budget amid political row

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AMBITIOUS plans to install solar panels on council buildings have been shelved due to government subsidy cuts.

Councillors at Hampshire County Council have voted to put the proposed £3.5m solar scheme on hold.

Plans were afoot to have panels installed on around 7,500 square metres of county council roof space to help generate electricity.

But the government announced in October that financial incentives paid to households and organisations to generate solar power were to be reduced by 50 per cent.

It announced the change would affect all installations registered after December 12 – rather than April 2012, the date originally proposed.

Hampshire’s leaders have decided their scheme is now unaffordable.

Council leader Ken Thornber said: ‘It is disappointing that the Secretary of State has made this unwelcome and unexpected decision, which has brought the solar energy industry to a stop overnight.

‘The decision to fix on a cut-off date in December, even before the consultation has closed on the proposed changes, has forced us to re-evaluate our plans, and in the current economic climate, we, along with many others must reluctantly shelve our plans.’

Meanwhile, green group Friends of the Earth and solar companies are launching an application for judicial review, claiming the December deadline is unlawful.

The local branch of Friends of the Earth has written to the all the MPs in south-east Hampshire, calling for the government to rethink its decision.

Ray Cobbett, Hampshire co-ordinator, said: ‘The draconian scale of the proposed cuts can only serve to damage a relatively new job-creating industry at a critical time.’