Historic England said the panels "would look out of place"Charmaine Au-Yeung

Plans to install solar panels on the roof of King’s College chapel have come under criticism over concerns over potential damage to the chapel's historical significance and aesthetic.

Historic England, the public body tasked with “looking after England’s historic environment”, has said that the installation of such panels “would look out of place”, and “would be a stark contrast to the existing roof”.

Officers within the Cambridge city council planning department also recommended rejecting the proposal due to the panels providing a “radically different character and appearance”.

Criticism also came from the Cambridge City Airport due to concerns over the effect of the panels’ glare on airport operations.

While the college acknowledged “the heritage significance of the chapel” in a statement sent to local council officials, it responded that the ongoing repairs presented “a once in a lifetime opportunity to undertake works which will […] help the college respond to the challenges of climate change”.

The installation of 492 panels on the college’s chapel’s roof, as proposed by the college, could produce 105,000 kWh of energy a year, enough to power 36 households.


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In December 2021, in response to the college seeking advice from the Church Buildings Council, the latter was supportive of the principle driving the installation, being “impressed with the aspirations of the college with respect to its commitment to net-zero carbon”.

The college’s plans to install solar panels on the chapel’s roof as part of its repairs first made news last year in September. Councillor Katie Thornburrow had welcomed the move as a “great example” while suggesting that the execution of such plans was contingent on approval from several organisations.

The ongoing criticism comes as the application is being considered by the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning committee for such approval, with several critics recommending the rejection of the application.

A decision will be made in a planning committee meeting on 7th February.