Solar PV and Planning Approval

Solar PV and Planning Approval – what you need to know

There is often confusion about whether or not planning permission is required for a solar PV installation and if so what the requirements are. In short, roof mounted solar PV rarely requires planning permission unless your proposed installation is greater than 50kWp in size (below 50kWp is classed as microgeneration), is on an historic building or falls under one of the situations outlined below. Almost all ground mounted systems will require planning approval but the process is generally quick. Systems that are greater than 50kWp will typically be deemed by the local planning officer. Your installer should take care of any planning applications on your behalf. All of our planning applications are completed in house and we have a 100% pass rate to date. Please see below for the latest update on planning from the 15th April 2015.
 
There are two sources you should refer to regarding the planning approval process for commercial solar PV. These are the Energy Act 2004 (Part 2, Chapter 1), and the Town and Country Planning, England, 2012 (Part 43). Below is a summary of the relevant sections affecting solar PV installations.
 
The Energy Act 2004 – Definition of Microgeneration
(6) For the purposes if this section “microgeneration” means the use for the generation of electricity or the production of heat of any plant –
  1. Which in generating electricity (or as the case may be) producing heat, relies wholly or mainly on a source of energy or a technology mentioned in subsection (7); and
  2. The capacity of which to generate electricity or (as the case may be) to produce heat does not exceed the capacity mentioned in subsection (8).
(7) Those sources of energy and technologies are –
  1. Biomass;
  2. Biofuels;
  3. Fuel cells;
  4. Photovoltaics
  5. Water (including waves and tides)
  6. Wind;
  7. Solar power;
  8. Geothermal sources;
  9. Combined heat and power systems;
  10. Other sources of energy and technologies for the generation of electricity or the production of heat, the useof which would, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, cut emissions of greenhouse gases in Great Britain.
(8) That capacity is –
  1. In relation to the generation of electricity, 50 kilowatts;
  2. In relation to the production of heat, 45 kilowatts thermal.
The Town and Country Planning Act, Installation of Non-Domestic Microgeneration Equipment
For reference, “article 1(5) land” includes a National Park, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Conservation area, The Broads, and a World Heritage Site.
Class A Permitted development
A. The installation, alteration or replacement of solar PV or solar thermal equipment on a building other than a dwellinghouse or a block of flats. Development not permitted
A.1. Development is not permitted by Class A if –
a. The solar PV or solar thermal equipment would be installed on a wall or pitched roof and would protrude more than 200mm beyond the plane of the wall or the roof slope when measured from the perpendicular with the external surface of the wall or roof slope;
b. The solar PV or solar thermal equipment would be installed on a flat roof, where the highest part of the solar PV or solar thermal equipment would be higher than 1m above the highest part of the roof (excluding any chimney);
c. The solar PV or solar thermal equipment would be installed on a roof within 1m of the external edge of that roof;
d. The solar PV or solar thermal equipment would be installed on a wall and within 1m of a junction of that wall with another wall or with the roof of the building;
e. In the case of a building on article 1(5) land, the solar PV or solar thermal equipment would be installed on a wall or roof slope which fronts a highway;
f. The solar PV or solar thermal equipment would be installed on a site designated as a scheduled monument; or
g. The solar PV or solar thermal equipment would be installed on a listed building or on a building within the curtilage of a listed building.
Conditions
A.2. Development is permitted by Class A subject to the following conditions –
a. Solar PV or solar thermal equipment must, so far as practicable, be sited so as to minimise its effect on the external appearance of the building;
b. Solar PV or solar thermal equipment must, so far as practicable, be sited so as to minimise its effect on the amenity of the area; and
c. Solar PV or solar thermal equipment no longer needed for microgeneration must be removed as soon as reasonably practicable.
Class B Permitted development
B. The installation, alteration or replacement of stand alone solar within the curtilage of a building other than a dwellinghouse or a block of flats.
Development not permitted
B.1. Development is not permitted by Class B if –
a. In the case of the installation of stand alone solar, the development would result in the presence within the curtilage of more than one stand alone solar;
b. Any part of the stand alone solar –
  1. Would exceed four metres in height;
  2. Would, if installed on any article 1(5) land, be installed so that it is nearer to any highway which bounds the curtilage than the part of the building which is nearest to that highway;
  3. Would be installed within five metres of the boundary of the curtilage;
  4. Would be installed within the curtilage of a listed building; or
  5. Would be installed on a site designated as a scheduled monument; or
h. The surface area of the solar panels forming part of the stand alone solarwould exceed nine square metres or any dimension of its array (including anyhousing) would exceed three metres.
Conditions
B.2. Development is permitted by Class B subject to the following conditions –
a. Stand alone solar must, so far as practicable, be sited so as to minimise its effect on the amenity of the area; and
b. Stand alone solar which is no longer needed for microgeneration must be removed as soon as reasonably practicable.
 
 
UPDATE FROM THE 15th APRIL 2015 

Finally after a long wait the government changed permitted development requirements for rooftop commercial solar installations.

The Statutory Instrument ‘TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING, ENGLAND – 2015 No. 596 – The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015’ was placed in Parliament on 24th March and will come into force on 15th April 2015.

The changes will streamline the process for larger developments between 50kW and 1MW but systems of this size will still require prior notification to the local planning authority with details of the proposed project. A schedule of fees has also yet to be published.

It’s the aim that the new regulations will streamline the process for larger developments between 50kW and 1MW but systems of this size will still require prior notification to the local planning authority with details of the proposed project. The new regulations state are essentially the same as the existing permitted development rules for sub 50kW with a requirement to notify the local authority as below;

  • Class J – installation or alteration etc of solar equipment on non-domestic premises

Permitted development

J. The installation, alteration or replacement of—

  • (b)  microgeneration solar PV equipment on a building; or

other than a dwellinghouse or a block of flats.

Development not permitted

J.3 Development is not permitted by Class J(c) if the capacity of the solar PV equipment installed (together with any solar PV equipment installed under Class J(b)) to generate electricity exceeds 1 megawatt.

Conditions
J.4
—(1) Class J development is permitted subject to the following conditions—

  • (a)  the solar PV equipment or solar thermal equipment must, so far as practicable, be sited so as to minimise its effect on the external appearance of the building and the amenity of the area; and
  • (b)  the solar PV equipment or solar thermal equipment is removed as soon as reasonably practicable when no longer needed.

(2) Class J(c) development is permitted subject to the condition that before beginning the development the developer must apply to the local planning authority for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the authority will be required as to the design or external appearance of the development, in particular the impact of glare on occupiers of neighbouring land, and the following sub-paragraphs apply in relation to that application.

(3) The application must be accompanied by—

(a) a written description of the proposed development;

(b) a plan indicating the site and showing the proposed development;

(c) the developer’ s contact address; and

(d) the developer’s email address if the developer is content to receive communications electronically;

together with any fee required to be paid.

(4) The local planning authority may refuse an application where, in the opinion of the authority—

  • (a)  the proposed development does not comply with, or
  • (b)  the developer has provided insufficient information to enable the authority to establish whether the proposed development complies with, any conditions, limitations or restrictions specified in Class J applicable to the development in question.

(5) Sub-paragraphs (6) and (8) do not apply where a local planning authority refuses an application under sub-paragraph (4) and for the purposes of section 78 (appeals) of the Act such a refusal is to be treated as a refusal of an application for approval.

(6) The local planning authority must give notice of the proposed development—

(a) by site display in at least one place on or near the land to which the application relates for not less than 21 days of a notice which—

  • (i)  describes the proposed development;
  • (ii)  provides the address of the proposed development;
  • (iii)  specifies the date by which representations are to be received by the local planning authority; or

(b) by serving a notice in that form on any adjoining owner or occupier.

(7) The local planning authority may require the developer to submit such information as the authority may reasonably require in order to determine the application.

(8) The local planning authority must, when determining an application—

  • (a)  take into account any representations made to them as a result of any notice given under sub-paragraph (6); and
  • (b)  have regard to the National Planning Policy Framework issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government in March 2012(a), so far as relevant to the subject matter of the prior approval, as if the application were a planning application.

(9) The development must not begin before the occurrence of one of the following—

  • (a)  the receipt by the applicant from the local planning authority of a written notice of their determination that such prior approval is not required;
  • (b)  the receipt by the applicant from the local planning authority of a written notice giving their prior approval; or
  • (c)  the expiry of 56 days following the date on which the application under sub-paragraph (3) was received by the local planning authority without the authority notifying the applicant as to whether prior approval is given or refused.

(10) The development must be carried out—

  • (a)  where prior approval is required, in accordance with the details approved by the local planning authority;
  • (b)  where prior approval is not required, or where sub-paragraph (9)(c) applies, in accordance with the details provided in the application referred to in sub-paragraph (3),

unless the local planning authority and the developer agree otherwise in writing.

(11) The local planning authority may grant prior approval unconditionally or subject to conditions reasonably related to the subject matter of the prior approval.

So to summarise the above, the process will be not dissimilar to the existing Certificate of Lawful Use process, at best the Local Authority may respond saying yes straight away or at worst they wont respond and you will automatically be able to install after the 56 day period. What more likely however will be the requirement to submit further detail such as the glint glare study and you can expect the process to take around 28 days.