Category - Solar
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Will Scholfield, Engineer

21 Aug : Updated 4 Apr ● 8 min read

Do you need planning permission for solar panels?

With energy bills rising to unprecedented highs and everyone looking for ways to live more environmentally consciously, solar panels are becoming an increasingly attractive option for many UK homeowners.

As a nation, we’re all on a journey towards achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and a large part of this effort will involve changes at an individual level. Using cleaner, more renewable energy sources such as solar power is something that we are all being encouraged to embrace, not only for the environment’s sake but also to help bring down our gas and electricity bills, too!

Solar installation isn’t quite as simple as rocking up to your local hardware store and buying a few sets of the most efficient model, though. In some cases, you’ll need to apply for planning permission before fixing them to your home’s roof, exterior walls or garden.

Confused? Don’t worry, BOXT is here to help! In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about getting planning permission to install solar panels so that you can start reaping the benefits for years to come.

First things first: What is planning permission?

Before we get into the technicalities of whether or not you’re going to need planning permission to install solar panels on or near your property, we need to understand what planning permission actually is! 

The vast majority of us will never have been in a position where we’re embarking on our very own Grand Designs project (whether that’s building our dream home or knocking up a small extension to house that much-needed utility room), so we’re unlikely to have found ourselves needing to apply for planning permission. 

Planning permission isn’t just for large-scale building projects, though; it’s also a requirement in some instances that involve making major changes to an existing building or structure. The point of planning permission is to prevent the construction of any inappropriate developments that would impact negatively on the overall aesthetics of a location, threaten wildlife and natural features, compromise historically significant buildings, or just generally worsen the quality of life of local residents.

Think about it this way. Would you be over the moon if a replica of The Shard appeared at the end of your street or garden? Probably not.

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Whose responsibility is it to apply for planning permission?

For any building or modification project, regardless of whether you’re doing it yourself or getting the help of specialist contractors, the responsibility of applying for planning permission lies with the owner of the property in question.

Now, we’re not going to spend time going into the finer details of what a planning permission application involves. Any applications must be made directly to your local authority, and all the information can be found on the official government website.

One thing to note, though, is that failure to apply for planning permission before starting a construction project can result in you being served an enforcement notice. This is a formal order to effectively undo any of the changes that you’ve made to your property or plot of land without having permission to do so, meaning it’s mission-critical that you obtain planning permission before starting!

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Who doesn’t need planning permission for solar panels?

Since the UK government recently extended its Permitted Development rules, homeowners typically don’t need planning permission to install solar panels on their property. Of course, as with all policies and regulations, there are specific criteria which need to be met in order for solar panel installation to be deemed a permitted development. These are as follows:

  1. Solar panels are not to be installed above the ridgeline (that’s the horizontal line that runs the length of your roof where the two sloping sides meet at an apex).
  2. Once installed, the panels cannot protrude more than 200mm from the roof or wall’s surface.
  3. If you are installing solar panels on the ground surrounding your home, the panel system cannot be more than 9m2 and 4m tall or sit within 5m of any boundary lines.

As long as you don’t plan on breaching any of the above restrictions, you shouldn’t need planning permission to install home solar panels.

Who does need planning permission to install solar panels?

If you live in one of the following properties or areas, you’re going to need planning permission before you can have solar panels installed:

1. Flat-roofed buildings

It’s difficult for solar panel installations to satisfy the requirement to sit no more than 200mm from the surface of a roof or wall on flat-roofed properties since the panels will need to be mounted at an angle of between 5° and 10° to ensure maximum sun exposure. This means that if your home has a flat roof onto which you want to install solar panels, you’re going to have to apply for planning permission.

2. Listed buildings

A listed building is, essentially, a monument, so any maintenance and building work has to honour the building’s history. Sadly, solar panels haven’t been around for long enough to be considered historical features. If you live in a Grade I or Grade II listed building, you’ll either need to apply for planning permission or Listed Building Consent before installing solar panels anywhere on your home’s exterior.

3. Conservation areas 

Like listed buildings, conservation areas exist to protect the architectural and historic features of an area. It may be possible to install solar panels under Permitted Development rules in a conservation area, but you’ll need planning permission if you want to install solar panels on a wall facing a road. 

What else might you need before installing solar panels?

Building regulations

Regardless of whether you need planning permission to install solar panels, you must make sure that you meet any building regulations before getting them fitted. These aren’t the same thing, and, in some cases, you may end up needing both. 

Building regulations are needed to ensure that any structural work carried out on a property, be it residential or commercial, is done safely and to a high standard. Within the context of installing solar panels, the key areas to note are the structural and electrical safety of the building in question. 

The assessment will involve a building surveyor inspecting your property to establish whether your roof is going to be able to support the weight of the panels once installed. It will also, if necessary, provide you with a list of upgrades that are required before any panels can be installed.

Structural reports

The last thing anyone wants (especially the people living in a property, whether that’s you or your tenants) is the roof collapsing under the weight of solar panels! To prevent this from happening, structural reports are sometimes recommended prior to installation. A qualified conveyancer will need to carry out a thorough inspection of your roof to establish whether there are any weak spots requiring upgrades or reinforcement. 

If you have just moved into your home or know that a full valuation has been performed relatively recently, you probably don’t need to get a structural report before installing solar panels. But, if your property is older, hasn’t been inspected for many years, or you suspect that it might have been damaged in any way following a storm, it’s worthwhile making the extra investment in a structural report. 

Electricity network applications

In some cases, you’ll need to seek the approval of your local authority’s DNO (Distribution Network Operator) before installing solar panels. This is in case any upgrades to your home’s electricity supply network will need to be made in order for you to connect solar panels safely. This is something that the installer of the solar panel system will need to check and, where necessary, notify your area’s DNO.

How to get help when buying solar panels

Solar panels are a fantastic investment, both in terms of helping to reduce your home’s energy usage and bills and adding real value to your property should you ever come to sell. 

Despite their incredible benefits, figuring out what’s what when it comes to solar panels can feel like a bit of an impossible task! With advanced technology and unfamiliar regulations at every turn, it’s no surprise that many homeowners feel overwhelmed at the prospect of getting solar panels installed on their property.

Don’t worry, though, BOXT is here to help. We’re cutting through the noise of the solar panel industry to make it easier and more affordable for you to make them a feature of your home. We have complete solar packages that include the panels themselves, expert installation and technical support  from day one. 

Ready to go green and start saving money on your energy bills? Explore BOXT’s range of solar panels online today.


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