The renovation and redevelopment of the Papa Stour Kirk is now well advanced with contractor LTM Group progressing the works to make the building wind and watertight. Another phase of work will be required once the stonework has dried out in about 12 months time. The Kirk has been reroofed, reharled using lime harl with new windows, cast iron gutters and a new bellcote.
The PHCG is very grateful to the CC for the continued support we have enjoyed over many years. We have also been very fortunate to obtain funding for all of this work as a result of very considerable efforts over many years by dedicated members of the PSHCG
Papa Stour is a very small community, the smallest inhabited island in Shetland. The current renovation has saved the Kirk for future generations and will enhance life on the island for both islanders, friends of Papa Stour and all visitors.
Our vision is that the Kirk will remain as the Kirk but will also be used as a visitor centre, a meeting area, and a place for functions and courses. We had a very successful music day in 2018 in the Kirk.
In order to be viable we have to have solar panels to help with our energy costs. Due to the Kirk location within the graveyard, the only source of energy we can use is electricity to heat, light and ventilate the building. As the cost of energy continues to rise significantly, clean energy from solar panels will help us to remain financially viable.
We applied for planning consent to site 12 solar panels high up on the south side of the roof – the seaward side. We have grant money to pay for the solar panels (which expires in August) and wanted to fix the solar panels while the scaffold is in place. This cannot now happen and we are faced with considerably more costs to bring in and erect another scaffold if and when our planning appeal is successful.
We submitted our planning application for the solar panels in October 2023 and there have been NO OBJECTIONS to the proposal.
One of our funders is Historic Environment Scotland who were consulted and neither supported nor objected to the solar panels. The Natural Heritage Officer has not objected and the CC supported out application.
In fact the only objection to the solar panels is from the planning department and we quote from their refusal decision:-
• The adverse visual impact on the listed building and its setting would compromise the ability of future generations to enjoy the high quality environment of the area. Although the PV panels would facilitate a change to renewable energy it is considered that the harm to the historic environment would outweigh the benefits of the proposal and as a result the development would be contrary to SLDP Policy GP1
This is the reason given by planning for the refusal.
We contend that this is not a valid reason. Everybody approaching the Kirk enters the graveyard through the gate in the north wall of the graveyard. The majority of visitors will go directly into the Kirk thru the door in the East gable and would not see or be aware of the solar panels (mounted high up on the south elevation). The only persons who might notice the solar panels are those who walk down to the south end of the graveyard.
True, any vessels in the Papa Sound will also be able to admire the solar panels. This is the argument that we will develop, with photographs for the planning appeal.
The Scottish Episcopal church in St Andrews was granted planning consent for 22 solar panels and two solar water heating panels. This is a grade B listed building as is the Papa Stour Kirk and is in a conservation area in the ancient historic town of St Andrews. We are in the same country with the same planning legislation. Why the inconsistency?? The numbers of people who would see the solar panels on the St Andrews church will be hundreds of thousands more than those observing the papa Stour Kirk solar panels.
We are actively canvassing opinions in support of our appeal and would ask the CC to write a letter of support which we can submit along with our appeal. Our appeal must be submitted within 3 months.