It's like living in a tanning salon! Family's agony over neighbour's solar panels that reflects sunlight directly into their home
Trevor Chase, 81, fitted the panels on top of his bungalow in Devon His next door neighbour Robert Phipps says his home is now lit up
His family have to retreat behind thick curtains to hide from the glare
Torridge District Council said planning permission was not required
13:33 GMT, 25 April 2013
23:59 GMT, 25 April 2013
Sitting in your conservatory is supposed to be a relaxing way of spending a sunny afternoon.
But for the Phipps family the sunshine means they are forced to retreat behind blackout curtains after their neighbour installed solar panels.
They say there is so much glare that their home is lit up ‘like a tanning salon’.
Robert Phipps says his neighbour's solar panels give off such a glare his family are permanently blinded by the light
Robert Phipps, 51, says the position and angle of his neighbour’s roof means excessive amounts of light are reflected over his garden and into his property.
He claims his three-bed detached home is now filled with blinding light. He also fears the dazzle could permanently damage eyes and despite erecting a large fence, the garden is effectively out of bounds when the sun is shining.
Mr Phipps, from Torridge, Devon, who lives with his wife Anne, 58, and son Tom, 15, said: ‘There’s this huge wall of light pointing straight at you. It’s worse than looking directly at the sun. I’m really worried it’s causing us retinal damage.
‘It’s not much better inside. We just have to close the curtains and blinds and switch the lights on.
Eco-friendly: The offending solar panels which were put up by Travor Chase on his bungalow
Robert Phipps at his house in Devon where his neighbour's solar panels reflect light straight into his house
‘My son has blackout blinds in his room just so he can escape the glare to do his homework.
‘The conservatory is totally unusable as well. It’s almost like living in a giant tanning salon.’ The panels belong to neighbour Trevor Chase, 81.
Mr Phipps said: ‘I’ve invited him over to see the reflection for himself but he wouldn’t come. He thinks we’re whingeing. My problem is with the authorities – they need to do something about this.’
Mr Chase said: ‘We wanted to do our bit to save energy and help the planet. On a good day the panels power the lights and the cooker.
‘On the house in front we can see sets of solar panels and there is glare when the sun catches them, but we don’t mind. We just think, “live and let live”. It happens everywhere.’
But Mr Phipps, a former engineer, who is unable to work because of long-term health problems, is taking his fight to Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles.
A spokesman for Torridge District Council said the panels were erected under permitted development rights, so planning permission was not required.
Heat: Robert Phipps says the reflections caused by the solar panels are making his family's lives a misery
Domestic solar panels became popular with homeowners in 2010 after the introduction of a tax-free Feed-in Tariffs scheme.
Households are paid for the energy they produce and use themselves and for the electricity they return to the National Grid.
But the payments are far above market rates, requiring heavy subsidies which rose 14-fold last year.
The tariff was introduced by Labour leader Ed Milliband when he was environment secretary in Gordon Brown’s government.
Earlier this year it was reported his scheme to encourage homeowners to install solar panels and wind turbines is set to cost families an extra 1billion in higher bills.
Penny Mills, chairman of the Torridge branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: ‘We believe solar panels should be installed on the roofs of agricultural and industrial buildings, as well as homes where appropriate.
‘However, the planning system should of course ensure there are no resulting problems affecting neighbouring properties.’
View from above: On sunny days light from these solar panels shines straight into the home of Robert Phipps