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Do I need planning permission for my rooftop solar installation?

The planning systems of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland differ. What may require planning permission in one location, may not in another. At TLT we have expertise in all jurisdictions.

Permitted development rights effectively give planning permission without the necessity of actually obtaining planning permission. They can, therefore, be very useful in bypassing what can be a lengthy and expensive process.

Whether the installation of commercial solar PV equipment will benefit from permitted development rights is dependant upon where the property is located. If the changes proposed in a recent Scottish Government consultation are brought in, Scotland could soon be the most favourable UK location for solar rooftop development.

England

On 15 April 2015, permitted development rights were extended for commercial rooftop solar installations. There is now a right to install, alter or replace solar PV equipment to generate electricity of up to 1 megawatt on the roof of a commercial building without having to obtain planning permission.

However, before doing so, an application for prior approval in relation to the design or external appearance of the development will have to be made. The impact of glare on occupiers of neighbouring land will be of particular interest to the local planning authority.

See our update 'permitted development rights extended for rooftop solar' for more details.

Wales

In Wales there was no such extension to the application of permitted development rights for larger installations. Therefore, permitted development rights still only apply for solar PV equipment with a maximum generation capacity of up to 50 kilowatts of electricity. Additionally, there are various situations in which development is not permitted. Some of these also apply in England (for example, permitted development rights do not apply if the building is listed). Also, as in England, there are limits as to the extent to which the equipment can protrude from the building, and in relation to minimising the effect on the external appearance of the building.

Northern Ireland

The rights in Northern Ireland are very similar to those in Wales. Again, permitted development rights only apply for equipment with a maximum output capacity of 50 kilowatts. Again, the rights cannot be used if the equipment would be on a listed building and limits apply in relation to the protrusion from the building. There is also a requirement to minimise the effect on the external appearance of the building.

Scotland

The Scottish Government issued a consultation last week on permitted development for non-domestic solar panels. Currently permitted development rights can only be used for installations with a maximum output capacity of up to 50 kilowatts. However, it is proposed that there be no output limit for the use of permitted development rights. The reason for this is that the output limit is not always the best threshold by which to limit a development under permitted development rights. The Scottish Government states that its "primary concern for the technology is that it does not significantly harm the appearance or other good characteristic (amenity) of an area. An appropriately located system with a large energy output may have no harmful impacts and a poorly located system with a small output may have harmful impacts."

The consultation closes on 27 August 2015 so hopefully permitted development rights will be more widely available for commercial solar rooftop developments in Scotland in the not too distant future.

Contributor: Alexandra Holsgrove Jones

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at June 2015. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions on www.TLTsolicitors.com

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