A CHARITY has been granted planning permission to modernise a listed Denbigh building with solar panels.

Vale of Clwyd Mind applied to Denbighshire County Council’s planning department with two applications seeking to develop the grade-two listed Crown Workshop at the former Buttermarket on Crown Lane.

The charity wants to make alterations to the existing skylight and insert rooflights and solar PV panels.

The chamber heard how the charity already has permission to convert the building into an office, education museum, and community building as part of a new culture, heritage, and well-being centre, backed by the government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

But Denbighshire’s planning officers recommended councillors refused permission for the roof conversion, including the council’s conservation officer.

Conservation officer Chris Evans said: “I’m supportive of this great project, which is bringing the building back into use in Denbigh, but unfortunately I cannot support the solar panels being installed on a huge roof elevation which is right in the central core of the conservation area in the medieval town of Denbigh.”

But most councillors felt differently.

Cllr Gareth Sandilands said: “One of the key words we’re talking about here is sustainability for the future.

“We know the impact of the cost of living (crisis), not just to residents but organisations and particularly to charities, has been affected, and will be affected for future years, due to cuts in funding from central Westminster Government.

“But the sustainability has been looked at actively by this organisation, and I’ve looked at the plans and they’ve also taken into consideration (the solar panels) being installed within the roof. They haven’t just ignored the fact it is in a conservation area.”

Cllr Jon Harland agreed: “I appreciate officers are following national guidelines in proposing to refuse this application, but I encourage members to consider that these conservation guidelines are outdated and not fit for purpose. Conservation regulation should not be about preserving the past in denial of the future.”

Cllr Harland then claimed listed buildings in England were now having heat pumps and solar panels fitted.

Cllr Merfyn Parry added: “We’ve probably got about 1,400-ish listed buildings in Denbighshire, and one third of them have fallen into a state where they’re not repairable.

“And I think what we’ve got to try and look at is to try and take some of these listed buildings forward. Let’s not look back. Let’s look forward to what we do.”

Cllr Chris Evans feared the building could fall into disrepair if not modernised.

“I’m very aware of the building. I’m a Denbigh lad,” he said.

“But if we look around Denbigh, especially the buttermarket, the college that it was, there’s the start of graffiti, the start of anti-social behaviour around that building. There has been arson in the last couple of weeks around Denbigh, so do we not progress anything heritage and end up with a burnt-out building and heritage bricks because that’s what will happen? We are living in different times now. People have different needs.”

The committee voted in favour of both applications.