I want to install solar panels on a listed building - how do I proceed?
Posted by Jordan Willis on 24 August 2017 at 11:05 am
With over 376 buildings belonging to the Church of England now sporting solar panels, including many protected churches (and even a cathedral), one may be forgiven for thinking that installing solar PVs on a listed or protected building is a straightforward affair. While installing solar panels on the vast majority of homes comes under the realm of ‘permitted development’ (meaning development is allowed subject to certain guidelines), this is not the case on listed buildings. However, this is no reason to lose faith! There are countless success stories, and with our guide, you can manage the complexities and considerations required in the installation of solar panels on a listed property.
Installing solar panels onto a listing building will require “listed building consent”, which is granted by local councils. This is approved on a case-by-case basis, and is likely to consist of many factors, but the council mainly will assess if the installation will be detrimental to the character, appearance or safety of the listed building. It is also important that any changes made still adhere to Building Regulations. Solar panels are considered to be adding exterior objects to the property, in a similar way as shutters, meter boxes or TV antennae would be. The form for applying for listed building consent can be found here, or at your local council office.
It is best to contact your local council as early as possible when planning to look at solar PVs. Generally speaking, the less obtrusive the area, the more likely you are to have success in your application. Historic England operate on the sensible advisory policy of “minimum intervention and reversibility”. Often this may mean getting creative with the placement on the building, installing brackets for solar panels to fit on or installing freestanding solar panels in the garden or grounds. South facing rooftops at a 30° incline are said to be the optimal placement zones for solar panels in the UK for energy generation, but it is best to consult both your installer and local authority to try to find a happy medium for all involved. If you are looking to connect the solar panels to the National Grid, you must also consider the placement of electricity meters on the property, and if they may similarly impact the aesthetic values of the building. It’s best to think of the logistics of how they will connect in the early planning phase. A further consideration to factor in is the potential to swiftly remove solar panels if they do prove to be causing damage to the property over time.
It’s also important to note that some solar panel installations may require planning permission alongside listed buildings consent. Planning permission may be required for a host of reasons. This includes the solar panels increasing the overall height of your property, or as a means to assess the safety of the building for supporting solar panels. Luckily, it is possible to apply for both listed buildings consent and planning permission in the same form, cutting down on the paperwork. The combined form can be found here or at your local council office. If you have already made changes to your property, retrospective planning permission can be applied for, but YouGen heavily advises against proceeding with projects in the hope of being granted retrospective planning permission, as a failure to secure permission can result in legal action.
If you are looking to install solar panels onto the roof of your listed building, it is important to acknowledge what type of roof you have, and if it is suitable for solar panel installation. The thickness of thatch roofs decreases over time, and with solar PV’s lifetime extending to 25 years, organisations like Historic England generally do not recommend attaching PV arrays to thatch roofs. With lead sheet roofing, it is important to consult with the Lead Sheet Association to assess the suitability of installing solar panels. Lead roofs are usually able to support solar PV, but this is not a hard and fast rule. When installing on slate roofs, it is also important to consult with your solar installer as well as your local council. Certain types of slating can be directly replaced with solar panelling, which may help reduce the visual impact of solar technology upon a listed property. If you pursue this option, make sure to have some spare slates or tiles available, as even the most careful installer may not be able to avoid some damage to old roofing in the installation.
One final consideration is any wildlife that may be impacted by the development. Most commonly, this may affect birds and bats inhabiting the roof of a listed property. If you are aware of any animals nesting in your roof, Natural England is a good contact point. Worry not, though, this may only impact when you are able to install solar panels, not the feasibility of the project as a whole.
Though extra steps may be involved, owners of listed buildings attempting to make their home more environmentally friendly are not alone. The array of shining examples across the country should provide hope that you can live in an eco-friendly house and still maintain the value of its heritage.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to leave a comment on the blog and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
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About the author:
Jordan is a full-time intern here at YouGen this summer, specialising in online marketing as well as driving the site forward as part of an ambitious development plan.
Jordan is interested in all aspects of energy and sustainability and has a strong background in social media marketing and engagement.
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