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Eden Council backs down in solar building regs battle

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 29 July 2011 at 12:33 pm

We won. Our three month campaign, launched by Eco-Environments and supported by YouGen, to end chaos surrounding planning and building regs for solar panel installations has succeeded. Eden District Council in Cumbria, has confirmed to Eco-Environments that it will no longer require people to apply for building regulations as long as their chosen installer is a member of the Government’s Competent Person Scheme.

Eco Environments said that a revised document published by the Communities and Local Government Department made it clear that councils were wrong to insist on such regulations.

The campaign was launched after Eco Environments received reports from homeowners that they were routinely being asked to apply and pay for building regulations applications. It quickly won the backing of Shadow Energy Ministers Huw Irranca-Davies and Luciana Berger and the local MP Rory Stewart. Within a matter of days, Government Energy Minister Greg Barker pledged to take the matter up with the Communities and Local Government Department.

During the campaign, other local authorities, including West Lancashire Council, were exposed as using similar tactics with homeowners and businesses looking to sign up to renewable energy technologies.

David Hunt, a director with Eco-Environments said: “We are delighted that Eden District Council has written to us confirming that it will no longer demand that our customers apply for building regulations.

“The Government’s revised documents make it crystal clear that customers using companies such as our own, which are members of the Competent Person Scheme and MCS approved, can allow us to self-certify all aspects of installation including roof structure.

“While it is a great shame that a number of customers have had to suffer unnecessary stress and financial costs during the flouting of Government guidance, it is a huge step forward that councils such as Eden District are now telling us they are happy to comply.”

The Microgeneration Strategy, announced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change in June this year, sets out an action to ensure that "the MCS Green Deal and Building Regulations Competent Person Scheme accreditations are compatible". I hope that it's addressing this as an urgent priority. In the meantime, click here to find out what the rules are.

Photo by Michael Homan

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

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Comments

2 comments - read them below or add one

Eco Environments Ltd

Eco Environments LtdComment left on: 1 August 2011 at 7:19 pm

Hello Malcolm,

Apologies if you have been waiting for a reply. I have not heard from you directly, and it seems I have missed your request via YouGen.

We are indeed able to self-certify ALL aspects of our installations as both MCS and NICEIC 'Competent Persons Scheme' accreditted. I can send you documents to verify this if you wish. These are the documents that led to Eden District Council accepting our position and writing to us to confirm that is the case.

With regard to our installations. We accept full and total responsibility for ALL aspects of our installations, including roof work. We warranty ALL mechanical and electrical (including roofing) aspects of our work for TEN years, when industry standard is two-five years. Our warranty is also insurance backed for the full TEN years. I hope that clarifies the situation.

If we ever come across a roof that in our professional judgement we are uncertain of the structural integrity of, we would then insist on a full structural survey, or not install on the roof. We have in the last four years on more than one occasion refused to install on a domestic roof as we were not 100% sure of the integrity of the roof. In one instance I know another installer just went ahead and installed on the roof without having a survey undertaken.

As for our terms of business and quote. Many phrases are compulsary for MCS compliance. Also, we install for both domestic and commercial customers. For commercial roofs we do insist that the customer has a structural survey undertaken, or verifies that the roof can take the weight/wind loading. This is for commercial roofs only as both the structure and weight/wind loadings are very different from a domestic roof.

If there are any other parts of our quote that you would like to clarify you can obviously contact the Business Development Manager that surveyed and provided your quote, or contact me directly.

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Malcolm

Malcolm Comment left on: 30 July 2011 at 11:44 am

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? I note yet again David Hunt of ECO Environments is saying that they can self certify for building regs and I would yet again ask why his company puts a disclaimer in their paperwork as mentioned by myself. Over 5 weeks ago I asked in the comments section for an answer and I contacted the You Gen team and received a reply on the 21st answer below

Dear Malcolm
I apologise that you have not recieved a reply to your questions posted on Mr Hunt's blog. I have emailed Mr Hunt directly this morning and have asked that he take a look as a matter of urgency.
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further assistance.

For easy reference I’ve copied the comments below:-

Having read your reply as to roof loadings in this blog ( Malcolm, to address your point, your installer should calculate the roof loading and wind factor (neither of which are substantial) I contacted your company for a quote. I have now received the paperwork and was very surprised to see the following paragraph :-

Most roofs are more than adequate to cope with a solar array being mounted. However, if you have any concerns about your roof structure we would recommend you have it checked for its integrity and ability to support the weight of the solar array.

This leads me to ask the following question do you as the installer do the calculations and take responsibility? as per your reply, or does the customer have to have their own calculations done via an architect/structural engineer.

As I feel people may be reading the articles on this site and believe they are covered (There may be other companies with the same disclaimer) I would like to hear from any companies that take full responsibility for their work.

I would still like to have an answer to the above conflicting statements from David Hunt of Eco environments as I think some of the people who have had these arrays fitted would.

I await your advises on this Blog

Malcolm Blake

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