Solar panels on castles see heritage bodies accused of net zero ‘obsession’

The company has led heat pump installation projects for the National Trust in Kingston Lacy in Dorset, Buscott Park in Oxfordshire, Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire, and has installed heat pumps in ancient Roman drains at Bath Abbey.

He said: “In the work we do with the National Trust, the main considerations are archaeology and trees. We have monitoring teams to carry out inspections in and around the building to make sure we don’t discover anything that needs to be preserved.

“We once found a priest’s tunnel that no one knew existed.”

He said his company had also discovered a “skeleton in a field” at a non-National Trust property in Wiltshire when a ground source heat pump was installed.

“The police were called and they cordoned off the area,” he explained, adding that the remains were removed and were later proven to be “very old.”

He was unable to comment on the exact location of the skeleton or say what happened to it after its discovery.

“The main challenge faced by older, leaky buildings is the design of the system itself (and) calculating the heat loss of the old building” due to poor insulation, he said.

While ground source heat pumps can be hidden, air source pumps are more visible and installers need to “consider moving them away from the building so they don’t impact the visuals,” he said.

He said that when proposals are presented to local authority planners to install carbon-neutral heating and power sources, “most of them are waved away”.

He added: “A lot of councils have declared climate emergencies and we must see that they are doing the right thing.”

While heat pumps do not require planning permission, installing them in listed buildings or protected areas still requires local council approval.

Chris Yates, senior director at the Federation of Environmental Trade Associations, a green energy industry body, wondered whether some green improvements to historic buildings would work properly. If the property isn’t insulated, the heat pump will “work harder” and “won’t be as efficient,” he said.

He added: “If proper calculations are made of the property’s heat loss, and then (decide) what needs to be done to fully insulate it, it may be possible to use a heat pump.

“There are people who have done this and there tends to be a return on investment, but it depends on a good calculation of the heat loss by a qualified installer.”

In large, ancient properties, such as cathedrals, castles or palaces, installing proper insulation “would probably be more difficult,” he added.

(tags for translation)heat pumps

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