The Church of England is lined up for a head-on legal battle with the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) over plans to make a 280 year-old Grade II listed church more energy efficient by installing 28 solar panels on its ancient roof.

The church authorities want to put solar panels on the slate roof of St Anne’s Church at Ings near Kendal.

However, the LDNPA has refused planning consent.

It says the church is a building of high historic significance that contributes to the Lake District.

In refusing consent for the panels the LDNPA said the panel would hide the slate roof of the church, saying: “This would represent a visual intrusion, disruption and contrast in the consistency of materials displayed in the building and [surrounding] local area resulting in harm to the significance of the Grade II listed building, an adverse impact on the outstanding universal values of the English Lakes World Heritage Site and adverse impact on the character of the local area.”

The LDNPA's views have been backed by leading conservation groups, the Georgian Group and Historic England.

The Historic England said the panels would “result in harm to the significance of the church.”

The Georgian Group said they would cause “considerable harm to the character and classical design” of the church.

However, a judge of the Church’s Consistory Court, which has to approve such changes to a church, has now given his blessing to the scheme, in advance of a pending legal challenge by the church to the LDNPA’s refusal of consent.

Despite the protests, barrister James Fryer-Spedding, Chancellor of the Diocese of Carlisle, in his role as a judge of the Consistory Court, has backed the plan.

In a judgment running to over 8,000 words, he said he considered the panels would cause “moderate but not significant harm” to the church as a building of special architectural or historic interest.

And, taking into account the church’s aims to lower its carbon footprint he said: “My assessment is that the moderate harm that will result to the significance of the Church from the implementation of the proposals is outweighed by the benefits of installing a solar panel system.”

He gave the Consistory Court’s go-ahead for the scheme provided planning consent is ultimately granted.