Solar Panels In A Conservation Area
With the ever-increasing popularity of solar panels on homes in the UK, there can on occasion be a cause for concern if you want to install solar panels but your property is either a listed building or within a conversation area.
Conservation areas exist to protect areas of special architectural and/or historical importance. Conservation areas are typically more regulated by planning control to preserve the character and history of the area. Across England, there are around 10,000 conservation areas, with at least one conservation area in every local authority.
Conservation areas cover 2.2% of England, of which are made up of 59% being in rural areas, and 41% is in urban areas. Some counties have larger areas that are designated conservations areas, such as Wiltshire, which has 246 areas across the county.
Listed buildings are typically subject to their own regulation, regardless of their location inside or outside a conservation area. Listed buildings cannot be demolished, extended or altered, which include the installation of solar panels, without permission from the local authority.
Solar Panels and Planning Permission
In most cases, placing solar panels on the roof of your house is considered a ‘permitted development’. This means that there is no need to seek planning permission from the local planning authority when installing solar panels on your roof, subject to specific criteria being met during the installation. As the UK Government tries to move away from the domestic use of fossil fuels in homes, regulations relating to the installation of panels on homes that are both within a conservation area or a listed building have become more lenient.
The criteria on homes and buildings that are neither a listed building nor within a conservation area include:
- Will not protrude more than 20cm from the wall or roof slope when measured horizontally.
- Not positioned as to be higher than the highest elevation of the roof, both on a pitched and/or flat roof. The highest elevation of the roof does not include chimneys, firewalls, parapet walls and other protrusions.
- Will so far is practicable be sited to minimise their impact on the external appearance of the building.
- Will so far is practicable be sited to minimise their impact on the amenity of the area.
- They are removed when they are no longer in use or required.
In addition, solar panels cannot be installed:
- Within a conservation or World Heritage site on a wall that faces the road.
- A site designated as a scheduled monument or a listed building. This includes where the building is located within the grounds of a listed building.
If in doubt regarding the compliance of any of the above, consulting your local planning authority or applying for a lawful development certificate (LDC) is recommended. A planning application will be required where the above criteria cannot be met or where your LPA has issued an ‘Article 4’ covering the area in which your property is located.
However, planning regulations do vary between each local planning authority, so if in doubt, consulting the local planning authority before installation is a good idea.
In simple terms, planning permission is an application to complete certain types of work to a building. These planning applications are managed by the local planning authority in the district or county council. Planning permission is generally required when:
- Building something new
- Making a major change to your build (such as an extension)
- Changing the use of your building
Generally, planning permission isn’t required for the installation of solar panels on a domestic premises.
Solar Panels and Building Regulations
With the installation of any solar panels on a roof, building regulations will apply to the installation. For example, regulations such as the structural integrity of the roof to take the additional weight of the solar panel system need to be calculated and proven. Other elements of solar panel installation that apply to building regulations include any electrical works.
Regulated solar installers that are members of the appropriate accreditation scheme can self-certify certain types of building work, including the installation of Solar PV.
Article 4 Directions
An article 4 direction is made by the local planning authority, which relates to a specific area, site or development where permitted development rights are restricted. This typically means that if the work being carried out is on a building in an area that has article 4 directions, a planning application may be required where it wouldn’t usually be required. Article 4 directions are in place to help control works that may threaten the character or aesthetics of an area of importance, including conservation areas.
Local Planning Authority (LPA)
The local planning authority, otherwise known as the LPA, is the planning department within the district or borough council. The local planning authority has several responsibilities, including:
- Producing a local plan mainly focused on the future development framework for the area. This includes the local areas adaption to climate change, safeguarding the environment and aesthetics of an area.
- Determining planning applications.
- Enforcing and regulating breaches in planning control.
- Supporting neighbourhood planning.
Lawful Development Certificate (LDC)
If you want to ensure that existing use of a building is lawful for planning purposes or planning permission is not required for the intended development proposal, applying for a Lawful Development Certificate (LWC) can alleviate any concerns.
Applying for a lawful development certificate isn’t required. Still, on occasion, one might be useful to confirm that the operation or activity is lawful for planning control purposes.
An application for a LDC can be made via the online planning portal service. Advice regarding an LDC can be sort from the local planning officer or by obtaining professional advice.