In news that will make life easier for many solar installers, from April 6 this year planning permission will no-longer be required to install solar PV or solar thermal on non-domestic buildings. The new rules will also mean that ground-mounted systems up to nine square metres - 3m x 3m - will be able to go ahead without a planning application.
The new regulations, which are coming into effect by an amendment to Permitted Development Rights (PDRs), will have a great impact on the requirements for planning for retrofits on commercial and agricultural buildings. Those who were held back, or forced to cancel projects due to the delays planning caused when the feed-in tariff changes were going through, will no longer face such restrictions.
However, there are certain conditions that must be met.
Roof mounted solar
A roof-mounted solar system must not protrude more than 200mm from the roof/wall surface it is mounted on. There is an exception to this is if the system is on a flat roof, where the solar PV must be less than 1m in height above the highest part of the flat roof excluding any chimneys.
The roof-mounted solar installation must also be more than 1m away from the external edge of the roof or the joint of the wall that it is on and if the system is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty, or land with similar restrictions (article 1(5) then the solar cannot be on a roof slope or wall fronting the highway.
Furthermore, planning permission is required if the solar is on a listed building, on a building within the curtilage of a listed building or upon a site designated as a scheduled ancient monument.
- The solar equipment must, so far as practicable, be sited so as to minimise its effect on the external appearance of the building;
- The solar equipment must, so far as practicable, be sited so as to minimise its effect on the amenity of the area; and
- Solar equipment no longer needed for micro generation must be removed as soon as reasonably practicable
In terms of ground-mounted solar, the new planning conditions also mean that installations of up to nine square metres will not require permission. However, the solar must not be taller than 4m and only one ground mounted system can be present in any one building.
Further, the solar must not be installed within 5m of the boundary of the curtilage and planning permission will still be required if the solar is within the curtilage of a listed building or on a site designated as a scheduled ancient monument.
- The ground mounted solar must, so far as practicable, be sited so as to minimise its effect on the amenity of the area; and
- Ground mounted solar which is no longer needed for micro generation must be removed as soon as reasonably practicable.
Commenting on this news, Alexander Creed, Partner, Resources and Energy at Strutt & Parker, said: “We welcome these changes; they will make the installation of solar on commercial and agricultural much more straightforward and we always considered it perverse that you could install on domestic properties without planning but not commercial or agricultural ones.
“We think that this change opens a window of opportunity for those that have been considering installing solar but haven't progressed a project - possibly put off by the rollercoaster of feed-in tariffs. We think it opens a window as you will be able to install on a roof after the April 6 and this gives a good window until the June 30 before the next FiT reduction.
“As systems connected before the July 1 will benefit from a 25 year solar PV FiT and a linkage to the RPI rather than the CPI, this will give better returns to the project. With the current pricing for a 50kW system any project completed before July 1 should achieve an internal rate of return of over 10 percent.”
You can read the full legislation here.