Thursday, 11 April 2013

Solar panels in conservation areas

I have run a couple of workshops recently to encourage community groups to undertake projects aiming to reduce energy use in buildings either homes or buildings used by the community such as schools, churches, community centres and so on. The participants bring their own ideas and experiences to the workshop so you get a different set of topics each time;  I am getting lots of ideas for posts from the issues they have raised. First, though, I have chosen the problem of planning permission for solar panels in conservation areas.

National guidelines say that solar panels on rooftops are a permitted development, within certain rules. You can find these on the planning portal here. Generally speaking, the rules both inside and outside conservation areas (but not for listed buildings) are:
  • The panels must not project above the ridge line and not more than 200mm from the roof surface.
  • The panels should be sited so as to minimise the effect on the external appearance of the building and the amenity of the area ...  as far as is practical.
The last bit looks a bit woolly to me but in practice you don't get much choice of where to site your solar panels: in practice they have to face south so that is the bit of your roof you need to use.

For a permitted development you don't have to get planning permission at all. Lots of people will tell you otherwise but it is simply not so. Even the Energy Saving Trust is a bit vague on this issue. If you are worried that the planning department might object to your panels after all you can apply for a certificate of lawful development. However, since this has to come from the planning department the only advantage over planning permission is that it is cheaper.

Reading this blog entry on the you-gen site - Solar PV, conservation area and planning permission: a case study - it looks as though planning departments often object to rooftop solar panels, even against the national guidelines, but persistence pays off.

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