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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Solar panel eyesore in the suburbs

A man's house is his castle and he can do anything on the tiny patch of ground he owns, as long as it complies with council regulations, right? Normally yes, but it seems that council slipped up and somehow permission was given to build a timber frame to hold another 40 solar panels to add to 23 panels already on a retiree's roof.

Hope Island is an upmarket suburb on Queensland's Gold Coast and 73 year old retiree Graham Drew has made himself very unpopular. His neighbours say he has brought down the price of their properties by building an ugly "solar farm" in suburbia.

Hope Island Marina

What he's done is absolutely legal and there's nothing anyone can do about it.  Did he consider that his project might upset his neighbours? No way, he doesn't care, it's his way or the highway.

Julianna Stewart, Ian Robertson and Norma Serradura 

Five households have been bombarding council with complaints about it - it's aesthetically ugly - the structure is unsafe - but because it was approved by an independent certifier and council doesn't regulate the installation of solar panels, they haven't got a leg to stand on.  So what that basically means is that you and I or our next door neighbour could do the same thing tomorrow, and it's likely that they will.

Property owner Kate Lockyer, whose home overlooks the panels said "People shouldn't be allowed to build things like that on a standard suburban block ...... it makes a mockery of building regulations and local building codes - the frame is already showing some movement and flexing, if it came off in a severe storm, it would cause serious damage to nearby homes and put lives at risk - he's essentially created a massive wind sail.... it's a potential wind kite."

Another neighbour, Norma Serradura said "I'm not anti-solar, we have 20 ourselves, but the difference is, they're on our roof."

There is some confusion about Mr Drew's motivation.  Local gossip says he boasted to someone about being able to earn $100,000 a year selling power back to the electricity grid but Mr Drew denied this. "Geez, I wish it was true" he said. "There aren't monstrous amounts of money in it - if there was, I'd have acres of's just going to give me a bit of cash flow to help my superannuation keep up with inflation."

So there you have it, it's a cash flow venture that many other retirees may be thinking about.

Councillor Cameron Caldwell said the council's ability to regular solar panel installations was limited. "Given the circumstances that have arisen, this could be a matter for investigation by the State government for a possible legislation change."