Dorset Council will do nothing to ensure all new homes are built with solar panels – despite declaring a climate emergency.

It claims its hands are being tied by Government policy.

Climate campaigner Dr Kevin Shillington has asked the authority to follow the example of the London borough of Camden with the policy of having solar panels on new buildings.

“An emergency requires emergency action and Dorset Council must not be found wanting on this,” he told councillors in a public question to the authority on Thursday evening.

“So, will Dorset Council follow the lead of Camden Council in London and make it a requirement for obtaining planning consent on all new structures that solar panels be installed on the roofs of all new domestic, industrial and commercial premises, with immediate effect, even if that entails going beyond national planning regulations and if necessary standing up to central government and developer company lobbyists?”

But planning brief holder David Walsh said the council would not be able to go beyond legislation and national planning policy guidelines – to do so would risk the authority getting bogged down in legal challenges.

Said Cllr Walsh: “To insist on measures that are not supported by planning policy or other legislative mechanisms would expose the council to a greater risk of planning appeals and associated claims for costs by appellants. This I fear would deflect our limited resources away from responding effectively to the climate emergency, which we intend to do via the development of well-evidenced policies, strategies and actions that will enable the Council to make a meaningful difference to Dorset’s carbon footprint and foster resilient places.”

Mr Walsh said that the county’s response to climate change would partially be tackled through the next Local Plan which is due to come into effect in 2023 – “Dorset Council recognises that the planning system has a key part to play in tackling climate change and we are embarking on a new local plan which will set out a strategy and policy framework for the sustainable use and development of land in Dorset, having regard to the critical importance of minimising the climate impact of human activity. In advance of the new local plan, we will continue to promote and secure carbon reduction measures in new developments where appropriate and feasible to do so.”