Fuming residents have branded a decision to fit hundreds of solar panels to the roof of the world-famous York Minster as “absurd." They said it was “wrong” that 199 panels would carpet the cathedral’s South Quire Aisle, which are expected to generate 75,000 kilowatt-hours of power annually.
The Dean of York, Revd Dominic Barrington, earlier welcomed the decision, saying he was "proud" the 800-year-old Minster was contributing to the Church of England’s "net zero" pledge. And he said key stakeholders had been “consulted extensively” to ensure the panels were “sensitive” to the cathedral’s historic architecture.
But locals from the region took to social media to voice their anger at custodians of the Gothic-style building allowing the green energy scheme to go ahead. One wrote: “Fittings panels to a historic building like that seems absurd and gets granted permission.”
Another added: “That seems wrong on an historic building. I’m pro solar panels, but I don’t think they’re appropriate everywhere.” A further user said: “Wow, and I had to battle with the council to get a few panels on my house.”
While another disbelieving local joked: “Is it April 1st?” The cathedral was designed to be the greatest in the kingdom when it was built over a period of 250 years, between 1220 and 1472.
And the initial church on the site in fact dates back to 627, just over 100 years before the first archbishop of York was recognised by the Pope in 732. But speaking about the cutting-edge new developments, Revd Barrington York encouraged other religious sites to "follow suit" with eco-friendly schemes.
He said: “The Church of England has pledged to be net zero by 2030 and we are proud to be playing a significant role in not only helping to achieve this vision, but also inspiring other cathedrals to follow suit. We are incredibly pleased that City of York Council has recognised the importance of this intervention not just for the Minster, but for the wider city.
“We have consulted extensively with key stakeholders including Historic England and the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England to ensure that the panels are sensitive to the Precinct’s historic architecture and wish to express our gratitude for their continued support up to this point.”
Alex McCallion, Director of Works and Precinct at York Minster, said he also hoped the work would inspire other organisations to look at carbon-cutting initiatives. He added: “Through our adopted Neighbourhood Plan, we are committed to being an exemplar for the city and further afield. Our aim is to inspire individuals and other organisations to implement their own small changes to contribute to national and international efforts.
“The exceptional architectural and cultural value of the Minster underpins the international reputation of York as a city, which is why we are so committed to delivering important decarbonisation projects such as this one, in turn setting a leading example for other heritage institutions to follow.
“We thank City of York Council, Historic England, and the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England for their partnership working in helping to deliver these ambitions as we all find our way to address the climate emergency, which is currently the greatest threat to the fabric of our historic Minster.” The decision comes just days after King’s College Cambridge was given approval to install solar panels on the ancient chapel’s roof.