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Is your council blocking your solar PV installation?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 12 May 2011 at 11:05 am

A new campaign is calling for local councils to stop making it difficult for householders to install renewable energy.

Government policy says that in most cases domestic renewable energy installations are permitted development. Yet this isn't stopping councils like Eden Valley in Cumbria from making people apply for building regs approval or planning permission.

We have joined installer Eco-Environments in calling on government to order councils to stop ignoring the law. Director, David Hunt, says: "The Government should publish a simple, definitive guide for councils to follow which makes it clear that there's not room for local authorities to make up their own rules and regulations. Perhaps then we will finally see a 100% consistent approach towards renewable energy schemes across the country."

Shadow energy & climate change ministers Huw Irranca-Davies and Luciana Berger have both promised to raise the matter in Parliament, as has Conservative MP Rory Stewart, whose constituency includes Eden Valley. He says: "Clearly, something has gone very wrong in the correct regulating of planning laws in relation to

solar panels. Installation of solar panels for both domestic and business use is - as you know - burgeoning across the country, and here in Cumbria it is becoming the energy source of choice for village hall committees, parish councils and community groups. It's absolutely imperative that individuals, businesses or community groups are able to install PV cells with a minimum of fuss and regulation."

David Hunt started the campaign after a customer of his came up against Eden Valley District Council's policy of insisting on people making a Building Regulations application at a cost of £100 a time.

A recent survey by Renewable Energy Installer magazine indicates that Eden Valley is not alone. Although solar panels were made permitted development in 2008, only 41 of the 251 councils that supplied information under its freedom of information requests correctly said that there was no need to apply for planning permission as it was a permitted development.

And despite a further rule change to allow solar panels to be installed in conservation areas, according to the figures supplied two of the three applications kicked out were in a conservation area.

The research found that in 2009 there were over 234 planning applications for solar panels, and this figure jumped to 403 applications in 2010 in England and Wales. As 71 councils failed to supply data, the real figure may be higher.

If you've had difficulties with your council, or know of someone who has, please let us know either in the comment box below, or through our contact form.

Photo: red tape by David J


If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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14 comments - read them below or add one

Gilly Jones

Gilly JonesComment left on: 12 August 2014 at 5:18 pm


This is a bit of tricky one. You don't say where your based as the rules differ depending on where you live in the UK.  You can find more about planning requirements on our solar pv  technology page by clicking here.

If the field is consider part of the grounds of the listed building, then planning permission would be needed for the stand alone solar.




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BP1Comment left on: 12 August 2014 at 10:40 am

I want to install some solar panels.

They cannot go on the house - as it is listed.

I want to put them in the adjacent field I own.

This is not a conservation area. But it is in the Green Belt.

A row of panels say 80m x 1.8m ground mounted along the northern side of the field would take up about 1.2% of the area of the field.

Do I need planning permission?

Does anyone have a planning consultant who can advise on an application?

Does this amount to a material change of use?



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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 9 September 2011 at 7:04 am

Hi Planningissues That sounds like a most useful and interesting piece of work. Good luck with it, and do let us know what you find. I'm afraid I don't know of any previous studies.

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PlanningIssuesComment left on: 7 September 2011 at 8:55 pm


I find all of your comments very interesting. This webpage is a godsend.

At present I am undertaking an MA in Town and Country Planning and conducting an analysis of the planning system and renewable energy uptake, looking at the Feed in Tariff in particular.

I am analysing FIT uptake across the UK and looking at planning policies in the higher and lower uptake areas.

Unfortunately it is very difficult to find out how many of these installations have required planning permission as some councils are reluctant to give up their time.

Does anybody know if previous studies of this nature have been carried out?



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David Hunt

David Hunt from Comment left on: 2 June 2011 at 7:38 am

Hi David

Three rivers  district council 'advised' that we should apply for a certificate of  lawfulness, which we did, cost £75 and required plans and drawings to be  submitted as well.

They  said it would take up to 8 weeks, but in fact only took ~4  weeks.

we are not in a conservation area and our house isn't a listed building - so it was rather irritating to have to pay the money and do the paperwork, essentially just to have proof that we didn't need planning permission.

Three rivers is in the bottom left hand corner of Herts (near but not in Watford).

Name Supplied

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 26 May 2011 at 3:40 pm

Here's some more stories I've just heard about: 

This is my experience of WEST DORSET District Council. The good news is I recently put up Solar PV's (3kWp) on a garage roof which was OK as a "permitted development" and with no building regs were required. However, I did get charged nearly £400 for planning permission which was denied for two other proposals before they okeyed the current installation. They said they were encouraging green initiatives when I sought planning permission and then after I paid my money they said their landscape architect was "against this sort of development in principle! - LB

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 26 May 2011 at 2:50 pm

Here are some comments from our newsletter readers:

I live in a conservation area and as I understand the regulations (not visible from the highway, not less than 5 metres from a boundary, max. size 9 squ. metres etc) they make it not worthwhile to proceed at the moment. What they want to conserve in our road of not particularly well-built 1970s housing I don\'t know!. - MC

I did contact Sefton Council (via email) to advise them of the ‘permitted development’ of my solar panels i.e. prior to installation in September last year.  Their emailed response was to thank me, but that for an official view they required forms to be completed against a payment of £75.  However, as my research highlighted a number of legal cases where councils had lost cases re solar ‘permitted development’ (I recall a case in Guildford) I ignored ‘their offer’. - GV

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GM Renewables

GM RenewablesComment left on: 20 May 2011 at 9:19 am

The planning issue is less of a concern than Building Regulations.

Here local Authorities are totally inconsistent and charge a very wide range of fees.

Can someone please give a definitive answer as to what really is needed, structural survey for instance, who can sign off and what inspections are required?


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David Hunt

David Hunt from Comment left on: 18 May 2011 at 11:00 am

If I can just NAME AND SHAME West Lancashire Borough Council. One of our customer called to verify that no planning permission was required for their installation (which there isn't), they have now written to him suggesting he gets a 'Certificate of Lawfulness', ie a letter from them to confirm he does NOT need planning permission (a fact they freely accept). Not surprisingly the 'Letter of Lawfulness' costs £75.

 So, they want £75 from you to confirm that you don't need planning permission. I have spoken to them and 'That is their policy'!!

 Join the campaign and share your experiences please.

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Chris Rudge

Chris Rudge from Rudge EnergyComment left on: 15 May 2011 at 12:15 am

Hi Ludgateman

In the early days of the Feed in Tariff many council planning offices did not have a handle on the requirements of PV installations. Now however, the feeling is planning depts have responded by going off and doing their own thing rather than combining under a common umbrella of regulation.

Each Council have their own foibles to be surmounted, so it would be best to speak to the planning dept by phone to enquire what their requirements are for your premises. This needs to be done during your decision making process for a PV system rather than after placing an order with an installer. Some installers may not provide you with a refund of your deposit if you have a planning problem. Unusual, but could occur.

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David Hunt

David Hunt from Comment left on: 13 May 2011 at 2:35 pm

It is good that this story is being picked up and even Eden Council agree we need more clarity. See

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LudgatemanComment left on: 13 May 2011 at 1:58 pm

This doesn't surprise me in the least.

When I contacted my planning authority in August 2010, prior to my installation going ahead, the department didn't seem aware what the law relating to PV was themselves and couldn't tell me whether I needed to apply for permission or not.

I subsequently read up on the legislation myself, and went ahead with the installation armed with the relevant paperwork should a planning official come calling. 

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Chris Rudge

Chris Rudge from Rudge EnergyComment left on: 12 May 2011 at 10:42 pm

In the immediate area we work, a council in Devon can confirm permitted development over the phone easily, whilst a couple of miles away in Dorset, they demand a form filled in, a fee of £42 and then a two week wait for a response!!. 

I did query this on behalf of a customer, but the Dorset planners were insistant this is the right and proper way to operate.

A level playing field on this simple issue of confirming permitted development is all that is required.. Easy! 

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21st Century Solar

21st Century SolarComment left on: 12 May 2011 at 7:29 pm

It is vital that the whole of the renewable energy industry is supported wherever possible by Government and Local Authorities.  The reason for such actions as those of EDC is questionable to say the least, we are not trying to do their job - why are they trying to stop us doing ours?  Which is the higher authority in the land Government or Planning Officers at EDC....

Edward Bland


21st Century Solar Ltd

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