Microgeneration and planning

Renewables and the Planning System

This briefing looks at domestic renewable energy and the planning system and provides a summary of what you can do without having to make a planning application.

The law uses the expression ‘microgeneration’, which means renewable energy generation up to certain thresholds, set out below.  The installation of microgeneration equipment is ‘development’ for the purpose of planning law.  Development needs planning permission.  Smaller domestic works count as development too, but often do not need an application for planning permission because permission is granted by the Secretary of State.   These kinds of works are called ‘permitted development’.  There is a useful government guide to these kinds of works that explains what can and cannot be done and how the system works, although it does not include microgeneration 1

The installation of some smaller microgeneration equipment is also classed as ‘permitted development’ and so may not need planning permission because permission has been granted in certain very specific circumstances.2 What follows is a summary of the law relating to England.

It applies to the installation of microgeneration kit on a dwellinghouse, which includes ‘a building which consists wholly of flats or which is used for the purposes of a dwellinghouse’. What is a dwellinghouse is ultimately a question of fact, although it is clear that the rules below only apply in a domestic context.  If you are uncertain about this point or about anything else in this briefing, you should take advice.  Some sources of further help are set out at the end.

This briefing –

  • Covers England only (but see the note on Oxford below);
  • Applies to microgeneration equipment – with a capacity that is below the electricity and heat generation thresholds.  In relation to the generation of electricity, the capacity must not exceed 50 kilowatts and in relation to the production of heat, it must not exceed 45 kilowatts thermal;3
  • Assumes that the building or structure on which the equipment is installed is itself lawful.  Microgeneration equipment installed on a building or structure that is unlawful will be liable to planning enforcement action.  You will need to make sure you have the Building Regulations approval too, as well as complying with any other relevant law.

Note also that local authorities can withdraw permitted development rights, particularly in conservation areas.

What you can and cannot do

What follows is a summary of what you can and cannot do without planning permission.

What kind of domestic renewables are covered?

The rules apply to

  • Solar PV and solar thermal equipment
  • Stand alone solar
  • Ground and water source heat pumps
  • Flues for biomass heating and CHP

Solar PV and solar thermal equipment: what you can do without applying for planning permission

The installation, alteration or replacement of solar PV or solar thermal equipment on —

(a) a dwellinghouse; or

(b) a building situated within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse.

is ‘permitted development’ and so do not need a planning application

When do I need to make a planning application?

Solar PV or solar thermal equipment installed on an existing wall or roof of a dwellinghouse or a building within its curtilage will need an application for planning permission if—

(a) the solar PV or solar thermal equipment would protrude more than 200 millimetres 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) it would result in the highest part of the solar PV or solar thermal equipment being higher than the highest part of the roof (excluding any chimney);

(c) in the case of land within a conservation area or which is a World Heritage Site, the solar PV or solar thermal equipment would be installed—

(i) on a wall forming the principal or side elevation of the

dwellinghouse and would be visible from a highway; or

(ii) on a wall of a building within the curtilage of the

dwellinghouse and would be visible from a highway; or

(d) the solar PV or solar thermal equipment would be installed on a building within the curtilage of the dwellinghouse if the dwellinghouse itself is a listed building.

Conditions

Planning permission for solar pv and solar thermal equipment granted in this way is subject to the following conditions—

(a) solar PV or solar thermal equipment installed on a building shall, 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 shall, 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 shall be removed as soon as reasonably practicable.

Stand alone solar (defined as solar PV or solar thermal equipment which is not installed on a building;): what you can do without applying for planning permission

The installation, alteration or replacement of stand alone solar within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse is classed as permitted development and so does not need a planning application

When do I need to make a planning application?

The installation of stand alone solar will need an application for planning permission if

(a) it would result in the presence within the curtilage of more than one stand alone solar; or

(b) any part of the stand alone solar—

(i)  would exceed four metres in height above ground level;

(ii)would, in the case of land within a conservation area or which is a World Heritage Site, be situated within any part of the curtilage of the dwellinghouse and would be visible from the highway;

(iii) would be situated within five metres of the boundary

of the curtilage;

(iv) would be situated within the curtilage of a listed building; or

(c) the surface area of the solar panels forming part of the stand alone solar would exceed nine square metres or any dimension of its array (including any housing) would exceed three metres.

Conditions

Planning permission for stand alone solar granted in this way is subject to conditions—

(a) stand alone solar shall, 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 shall be removed as soon as reasonably practicable.

Ground and water source heat pumps: what you can do without applying for planning permission

The installation, alteration or replacement of a ground or water source heat pump within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse  is classed as permitted development and so does not need a planning application.

Flues for biomass heating and for CHP: what you can do without applying for planning permission

The installation, alteration or replacement of a flue, forming part of a biomass heating system, on a dwellinghouse is classed as permitted development and so may not need a planning application.

When do I need to make a planning application?

The installation of a flue or flues for biomass heating will need an application for planning permission if

a) the height of the flue would exceed the highest part of the roof by one metre or more;

(b)  in the case of land within a conservation area or which is a World Heritage Site, the flue would be installed on a wall or roof slope forming the principal or side elevation of the dwellinghouse and would be visible from a highway.

If you do need to make a planning application

If you do need to make a planning application, many local authorities including Oxford, have policies that encourage renewables.  The Oxford Local Plan 2001 -2016 doesn’t say much but  paragraph  2.16.3  says that The City Council will in particular encourage the use of solar panels, photovoltaics  and, where appropriate, wind generators on all developments (both new and existing), and on residential and non-residential buildings.  Policy CP16 on renewable energy says, not unsurprisingly, that Planning permission will be granted for renewable energy schemes in appropriate locations.4

FURTHER INFORMATION

Oxford City Council Planning Service

Ramsay House, 10 St Ebbe’s Street. Oxford

http://www.oxford.gov.uk/PageRender/decP/Planning.htm

Planning Aid

A free advice service for householders
0870 240 7552
Oxford Office
3 Woodins Way
Paradise Street
Oxford
OX1 1HD
01865 798673

http://www.rtpi.org.uk/planningaid

Planning portal
For information about planning and building regulations.
http://www.planningportal.gov.uk

NOTES

1 This is available at
http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/uploads/100806_PDforhouseholders_TechnicalGuidance.pdf

2 See The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment)(England) Order 2008 and the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (No 2) (England) Order 2008.

3 This is because the Energy Act 2004, section 82(8) applies to the planning regime.

4 Oxford City Council’s planning policies are at

http://www.oxford.gov.uk/PageRender/decP/Planning_Policy_occw.htm

Tim Treuherz

Dec 2010





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