Installing a solar PV system is a fantastic way to generate renewable energy, help the environment and save money on powering your home. But you may be wondering about solar panels and planning permission. Do you need to seek planning permission if you want to install solar panels?
In most cases, the answer is no. Most of the time, it isn’t necessary to apply for planning permission for solar panels, as they are a “permitted development”. However, there are certain caveats to this. Your solar panels must be set up in a certain way and meet specific criteria to be compliant.
Before you have your solar PV system installed, it’s best to familiarise yourself with these conditions, just to be on the safe side. That’s what this blog piece below is about.
Solar panels and planning permission: the basics
In most cases, solar panels are covered by “permitted development rights”.
Permitted development rights allow you to carry out certain building works without having to seek permission. That being said, your solar PV installation must follow certain criteria:
- Any equipment mounted on a building should have a minimal effect on the appearance of the building and the surrounding area. In other words, your solar system should be as inconspicuous as is reasonably practicable
- The solar PV system can’t be erected above the highest point of the roof (excluding the chimney)
- The panels can’t project more than 200mm (0.2m) from the roof slope or wall surface
- Solar panels can’t generally be installed within the grounds of a listed building, or a scheduled monument
- Equipment should be removed as soon as it’s no longer needed
There are additional criteria for buildings in conservation areas, as we’ll come to later.
All Solar Together installers are MCS accredited and are able to design your system in line with planning permission requirements.
Are standalone solar panels covered by permitted development rights?
Although not available through Solar Together, it's important to know that if you are considering standalone solar panels (i.e. not mounted onto a roof), there are some extra rules to follow.
As well as the above criteria, standalone panels must be at least five metres from the property’s boundary, and can’t be taller than four metres. The whole array must be smaller than 9m x 3m x 3m. And permitted development rights only apply to the first installation – any subsequent installations will all require planning permission.
The best and simplest option, by far, is to mount solar panels on your roof. You can do this through the group-buying scheme Solar Together, which will also help reduce the cost of the installation.
When do you need planning permission for solar panels?
If your potential solar PV installation doesn’t meet the conditions for permitted development rights, you may need to apply for planning permission. When it comes to planning permission and solar PV, here are three of the most common circumstances that might require it. Find out if your roof is suitable.
Installing solar panels on a flat roof
There are no rules against installing solar panels on flat roofs. However, the problem is that solar panels can’t be laid flat. They must be erected at a specific angle to get the most sunlight.
To be considered a permitted development, solar panels must not protrude more than 0.2 metres beyond the roof slope, or be higher than the tallest point of the roof. With a flat rooftop, it is almost inevitable they will sit too high. So, in most cases, you will need planning permission to install a solar PV system on a flat roof.
Installing solar panels in a conservation area
A conservation area is an area that has some kind of historic or architectural feature that gives it national value. There are around 10,000 total conservation areas in England.
You can usually install solar panels in a conservation area or a World Heritage Site without planning permission. However, the panels must not be installed in a location that’s visible from any public highway. Contact your local authority if you’re unsure.
Installing solar panels on a listed building
A listed building is a structure that has been declared to be of national historical or architectural importance. If you live in a Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II listed building, you’ll need to apply for listed building consent to install solar panels. Historic England and the National Amenity Societies must pre-approve any alteration to a listed building that may “affect its character”. This also applies if you want to install a solar PV system within the grounds of a listed building, or on a non-listed building within the grounds of one.
Listed building consent is different to planning permission, and must be sought through the local planning authority.
How to apply for Solar PV planning permission
If you think you need to apply for planning permission for your solar PV system, the first step is to contact the Planning Portal for advice. They can recommend whether you need planning permission for your project and can explain any regulations that your application needs to comply with.
When applying for planning permission, it can take up to several weeks before you have a response from your planning authority. It is recommended to request planning permission before scheduling the installation of your solar PV system. Once the planning permission has been granted, you have three years to begin development.
You can start your planning application through the Planning Portal website, and they’ll guide you through every stage of the process until a decision is made on your application.
What if my solar panel planning application is denied?
Most planning permission applications take around eight weeks to process. In certain cases, it may take longer - however, this only really applies to unusually large or complicated projects.
As long as you’ve complied with all of the regulations we listed above, there’s no reason your request shouldn’t be approved. But if your application is denied, then you won’t be able to go ahead with your solar PV installation.
When you accept your personal recommendation and decide to go ahead with an installation through Solar Together, you will be asked to pay a deposit. You can rest assured that if your planning permission is denied, you will be able to get a full refund of your deposit.
Contact Solar Together today
At Solar Together, we understand that the initial installation cost of solar PV systems can sometimes be off-putting for those looking to harness green energy through solar power. That’s why we created Solar Together: a unique group-buying scheme that helps to make solar PV more competitive and accessible for homeowners across the UK.
If you live in a participating council area, you can register for the Solar Together group-buying scheme today. We work with your local authority and group residents together to help you access discounts on solar PV installation – because you’ll always get a better price if you buy as a group.
Solar Together always pre-vets installers to ensure they’ll provide a great quality service to you. We also offer battery storage packages and EV charge point installation as an optional add-on.