PLANS for a solar power co-operative in Ledbury have taken important steps forward, including planning permission for panels on the roof of the community hospital.

If all goes to plan, Ledbury people will be able to become shareholders in the clean energy scheme, and more suitable roofs might be found for panel arrays in the future.

At present, however, all the focus is on the community hospital.

Individuals and groups can invest anything from £250-£20,000 in the 20 year project which could deliver returns above current interest rates and provide cheaper, electricity from a renewable source to the hospital and nursing home.

Liz Harvey, a spokesperson for the Ledbury Community Solar project said recent talks had been had with ShareEnergy – a not-for-profit organisation which helps communities find, build and own renewable energy generation throughout the UK.

The talks are to help Ledbury Community Solar to draw up a draft agreement with Shaw Healthcare, which owns the hospital building, off Market Street.

Mrs Harvey, who is both a town and county councillor, said: "The team met with ShareEnergy last week to discuss the draft lease agreement for Shaw Healthcare's roof.

"The share offer document is being drafted and local solicitors, Orme Slade, have offered to provide legal advice to us free of charge - which is fantastic."

She added: "Planning permission has also been granted for the roof array by Herefordshire Council in December so that's enabled this legal and share paperwork to get moving."

But no date has yet been announced for the installation of the panel array, which would be the first to be installed by the co-operative, since the initiative was first announced, about a year ago.

"It's all legal and paperwork presently," said Cllr Harvey.

Informal talks have already taken place with Shaw Healthcare.

The application (P142978/F), approved by a planning officer under delegated powers, is for the "proposed installation of black solar PV modules for renewable energy generation."

The panels, set out in four sections, would cover about one sixth or less of the total roof space at the modern hospital.

The planning officer, in his report said: "The proposal will have little impact on the conservation area or setting of adjoining listed buildings."