An increasing number of people are investing in solar energy. More and more homes are having solar panels, or solar tiles, installed on their roofs. Of course, with such installations, the topic of planning permission and building regulations often comes to the surface. There is a lot of uncertainty with regards to whether or not you need planning permission, especially with numerous internet sites claiming different facts. However, on this page, we lay out exactly what you need to do, the planning you need, and the regulations you need to follow in order to have solar panels (or tiles) installed.
In April 2008, changes to legislation were made. This deemed that the installation of solar panels became a permitted development. As a result of this, planning permission is no longer required for solar panels unless the building is listed or located in a conservation area.
However, living in a conservation area does not, in itself, prevent you from carrying out the installation. There are a large number of formally approved solar panel installations in conservation areas, including on roofs that face the road.
What you need to do is speak to your local council and let them know about your decision to install. Unless there is a valid reason to state otherwise, permission for the installation should be granted. In some conservation areas (such as historical ones), it may be requested that you use solar roof tiles instead of panels.
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In addition to the official regulation that surrounds PV installation, it is essential to consider some of the practicalities that come with having solar panels fitted. The orientation of the proposed installation site is a crucial part because solar systems are most efficient when they are fitted to a roof that faces south at an angle of 32 degrees. You will also need around 10 to 25 square metres of roof space available. The shape of the roof is not important.
If there is any shade over the solar panels, this can have a large effect on the overall efficiency of the system. As a result, it is important to clear the installation area of any overhanging branches, and to ensure the panels are not fitted in the shadow of a chimney or aerial.
In the vast majority of cases, installing solar PV will not require any form of planning permissions. This is because solar panels are (as mentioned earlier) permitted developments (or PD) under the relevant legislation. If you wish to avoid the need for planning permission, the panels must:
- Not be installed above the highest point of the property (not including chimneys)
- Be fitted in a way that least affects the external appearance of the property and the surrounding area
- Not protrude more than 200mm from the surface of your roof
An inspector from your local Building Control Office may decide to visit your property before the installation begins. This is standard procedure. In addition to this, if you stop using your panels for the generation of electricity, they need to be removed as soon as possible.
It is true that the majority of solar PV installations will be classed as a PD. However, there are instances where you will need to seek planning permission from your local authority. This is the case if your solar panels:
- Do not meet the PD requirements set out in the above section
- Are set to be installed on a listed building
- Are set to be installed on a world heritage site
- Are standalone, and you plan to install multiple units (the first standalone unit is a PD)
If you live in Scotland, there are a few additional rules that require planning permission. If the solar panels are going to be installed on the exterior walls of a block of flats, or if any of the panels will end up sitting within one metre of the edge of a flat roof. You can find out more information by contacting your local planning office.
Regardless of whether or not planning permission is required for the installation of your solar panels, the installation itself is still subject to standard building regulations. You will need to check that your roof is capable of supporting the additional weight that comes with the solar panels. You will also be required to carry out any potential alterations to make it safe. All other standard health and safety measures must be adhered to, and you may have to prove to your local planning office that your property fully complies with these specific requirements.
The best way for you to avoid any problems with building regulations is to use an MCS certified installer for the fitting of your solar panels. You can find a full list of them on the MCS website.
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