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Council's planning policy stands in the way of solar progress

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 24 May 2011 at 9:06 am

West Lancashire Borough Council is the latest to be caught demanding that homeowners formally apply for permission to have solar panels installed – something the Government has said is not required.

The council is writing to residents telling them "it is in your own interest to submit a formal application to ascertain whether planning permission is required". It adds that this is necessary to avoid "possible enforcement action" should a development be carried out which requires planning permission. The council is further requesting a fee of £75 per application in return for a so called "Certificate of Lawfulness".

According to Bootle-based Eco Environments,  the council’s move is “simply breathtaking” and a “blatant money grab”. David Hunt, one of the company’s directors and a member of the Low Carbon Economy Council for the Liverpool City Region, said: “West Lancs are trying to make £75 per household that wants to go green with no need or justification and all they are doing is putting people off.

“The Government’s rules are clear. Planning permission is not required unless you live in a listed building or conservation area and Building Regulations are not required as long as the homeowner uses a contractor under the Government’s Competent Person Scheme.

“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.

“The majority of councils do comply, but a small number seem hell bent on causing as many problems as possible. By doing so, they are discouraging people from pursuing renewable energy solutions for their homes and cocking a snook at the Government’s environmental agenda.”

As we reported a couple of weeks ago, West Lancs isn't the only council that's confusing its electorate, and boosting its coffers, by charging for planning or building regs, even though solar panels are permitted development for the majority of domestic situations. Do name and shame your council if it's up to similar tricks. Either comment in the space below or send me an email.

Photo by pgegreenenergy


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

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2 comments - read them below or add one


pigasusComment left on: 26 May 2011 at 11:14 am

JerryFn, I think you have a point that Solar PV panels are not always attractive.  But I don't think this is really the issue here.  While the government has allowed for the issue of how panels look to be considered for houses in conservation areas, in other areas it has decided that installing such panels is permitted development.  Local councils have no authority to override the national government's position.  And in any event, I suspect that the local councils are not actually considering the beauty or lack thereof of such panels.  In most cases they are merely requiring a ransom payment before they rubber stamp the permission.

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JerryFnComment left on: 25 May 2011 at 5:43 pm

You must bear in mind that Solar PV installations are not always attractive. In fact sometimes they are down right ugly. We have planning regulations to protect the built environment so it is perfectly sensible to have a planning policy over such visually intrusive installations. While the owner may well bask in a feeling of evangelical righteousness and pocket the profit others  have to look at them.
In my neighborhood there are some very attractive buildings that have been ruined by large inappropriate glass roofs that are completely at odds with the local built environment. 

Surely we have got this wrong, subsidise all the retail sheds, supermarkets,  farms, schools and industrial roofs, but to pay folk to stick them on domestic roofs is destroying what we seek to protect.

Yes I did consider them. But as I live in an area of outstanding natural beauty I took sensible advice from my local council. Why would I want to cover my roof with shiny glass and aluminium when I have carefully sourced recycled hand made tiles for my roofs. 

Why design a garden to shield my eyes from the glare of a high tech installation? 

Maybe it is not obstruction but sensible legislation and it just gets up your nose as it is not in your personal interest..

Remember too that not everyone can or wants to install PV and help us look for another more effective way to achieve lower CO2. I am not against that agenda. But I do think the FIT and PV is an ill thought through project.

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