Eden Council admits additional installation charges were wrong

After solar installation firm Eco Environments’ claimed that a number of UK councils were going against Government’s guidance by wrongly telling people they require planning permission or Building Regulations approval, one of the listed offenders has admitted that it was wrong.

Following the publication of new planning guidelines, Eden District Council in Cumbria has accepted Eco Environments' contention that householders do not have to apply for building regulations if their chosen installer is certified by Government's Competent Person Scheme.

Council’s persistence to ignore Government’s guidelines and persist in charging over £70 in unnecessary fees caused a lot of uproar, with Eco Environments Director David Hunt among many who fought back against the charges.

Cathy Debenham, the Founder of renewable energy body You Gen said, "Councils lost an important revenue stream when they were told that they should no longer require planning permission for solar PV schemes.

“By trying to persuade homeowners into believing they do need permission, or at the very least Building Regulations approval, maybe they are attempting to cling on to some kind of ongoing income.

“What is the point of Government making laws if councils are going to ignore them? Any council which is pursuing such an agenda deserves to be held to account as their actions fly completely in the face of the Government's policy of encouraging homeowners and businesses to embrace renewable energy solutions wherever possible,” Debenham concluded.

“The Governments rules are clear. Even in a conservation area, planning should be permitted and Building Regulations should not be necessary as long as the homeowner notifies the local authority and uses accredited installers. The Government needs to make it absolutely clear to local authorities everywhere that they have a duty to adhere to these rules rather than standing in the way of progress,” explained Hunt.

Following publication of the new guidelines, Gordon Nicolson at Eden District Council said, "We were asking the Government to clarify the scheme and we're now satisfied. The Government scheme now shows that when fitters sign up to the scheme they have building regulations [certification] as well."

“The revised Government guidance for solar panel installation has also clarified issues I raised in a press statement issued on 10 June 2011, about the need for clear public information on which installers are competent to fit solar panels to buildings.”

The Council claims it now has no planning issues with the fitting of solar panels, unless they are to be installed in a conservation area.

“We are very happy to comply with the new regulations with the knowledge that, as long as residents use an installer who is part of a recognised Competent Person Scheme, and ensure a check of their property’s structural suitability for the installation of solar panels is being carried out,” the Council said.

David Hunt, Director of Eco Environments said, "The Government's revised documents make it crystal clear that customers using companies ... which are members of the Competent Person Scheme and MCS approved can allow us to self-certify all aspects of installation including roof structure.”

"While it is a great shame that a number of customers have had to suffer unnecessary stress and financial costs during the flouting of Government guidance, it is a huge step forward that councils such as Eden District are now telling us they are happy to comply."