A SOMERSET councillor has won a legal battle against his own council to install solar panels throughout his holiday business on the west Somerset coast.

Councillor Marcus Kravis represents the Dunster division on Somerset Council and runs the Anchor's Drop holiday accommodation business in Blue Anchor alongside his partner, Cara Strom.

Mr Kravis was refused permission by Somerset West and Taunton Council in March 2023 to install solar panels at several locations throughout the site, which include the former Blue Anchor hotel and a number of static caravans.

The Planning Inspectorate has now overturned the council’s decision, allowing the business to be self-sufficient in electricity for most of the year, reducing both their electricity bills and the need to use their two oil boilers and propane tanks.

Mr Kravis and Ms Strom intended to install solar panels on the pub itself and the nearby static caravans, as well as a number of ground-mounted panels in the front beer garden.

The original decision was taken by the district council’s planning committee in March 2023, at a time when Mr Kravis was the district councillor for Old Cleeve and District, which included Blue Anchor (meaning he could not vote on the decision).

Somerset County Gazette: Static caravans at Anchor's Drop.Static caravans at Anchor's Drop. (Image: Marcus Kravis)

Following the committee’s refusal, which Mr Kravis described as “very poor”, he lodged an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate in June 2023, with the appeal being handled through written representations and a formal site visit rather than a public inquiry.

The appeal process has coincided with the completion of a £3.5m coastal defence scheme at Blue Anchor, which is designed to protect Anchors Drop, the neighbouring properties and the crucial B3191 coast road from further rapid erosion.

Mr Kravis also secured planning permission in March to convert part of the pub into additional holiday lets – with the decision being taken in public by Somerset Council’s planning committee west in light of his status as a serving councillor.

Planning inspector Alison Fish visited the site on April 30 and published her final ruling on the Planning Inspectorate’s official website on May 23.

Ms Fish said that Anchor’s Drop’s current electricity costs exceed £50,000 a year, and that switching to renewable energy sources (including a battery storage system) would “enable them to open longer hours for food and drink, enable more out of season stays and allow for the provision of electric car charging points”.

Somerset County Gazette: Councillor Marcus Kravis, owner of the Anchor's Drop site.Councillor Marcus Kravis, owner of the Anchor's Drop site. (Image: Marcus Kravis)

She argued that, since solar panels have a limited lifespan, planning conditions could be put in place concerning their removal once they could no longer generate electricity.

She added: “The caravans have shallow pitch roofs and are sited on land which is well screened. As a result, the solar panels would not be prominent from locations outside of the site.

“While the panels on the rear roof slope of the main building would be visible, these would be on part of the building which lacks character.

“On the roadside elevation, the limited number and positioning of the solar panels interspersed between the dormer windows means that they would not appear incongruous, especially when seen in the context of the existing grey slate roof covering.”

While the panels in the garden would appear “incongruous” and “alien” within the coastal setting, Ms Fish said “the overall harm would be modest” due to the relatively low height of the panels.

She concluded: “There are benefits to the scheme to which I have afforded significant weight, such that they outweigh the conflict with the development plan.”

Reacting to Ms Fish’s ruling, Mr Kravis said: “This is very welcome and great news.

“It will finally allow us to implement a scheme that will allow the business to generate most if not all its own energy.

“I was surprised at the original decision but the chairman of the district council’s planning committee, the chief planning officer and legal team should be commended for sensibly trying to offer a workable solution to the members of the committee, who unfortunately still opted to refuse the application.

“The aim is to be totally ‘off grid’, which is a challenge using just solar in our climate, but at the Arkade in Minehead we have been doing just that since the start of May.

“This is saving more than 350 units of electricity a day, which is the equivalent of over one tonne of coal a week.

“It is exciting that we are finally able to move forward once funds allow and we have already planted a hedge in preparation.

“The final scheme, when finalised, will also involve significant battery storage with the aim is to be able to run ‘off grid’ for most of the year and our eventual aim is to be able to get rid of our two oil fired boilers and even have an electric car charging point for each unit of accommodation.

“Unfortunately, we won’t be able to send any power back to the grid due to limitations in the electricity network.”