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If you are looking to fit solar panels on a residential property, you will not need planning permission in most cases. There are certain exceptions but in general if they are on a residential property and not visible from a road, they will not require planning permission. We’ll explore the different factors to take into account when building solar panels and discuss the exceptional cases that require planning permission.

Solar Panels in the UK

Installing solar panels on properties across the UK is becoming increasingly popular, with 1.39 million UK homes having solar panels as of June 2024.

It is crucial to check if you need building regulations or planning permissions before embarking on solar panel installation on your home. Solar panels are a great long-term investment but they require a big initial financial investment; that’s why, it’s better to check if your property requires planning permission before getting started.

Planning Permission for Solar Panels

Planning permission is a type of approval required before going ahead with work on your property such as construction or expansion. If you are building something new or making a significant change to the building structure, it is often required.

Unlike building regulations, planning permissions looks at the appearance of proposed plans and how it could effect neighbours and the environment. Building regulations, on the other hand, consider the technical side of the building works to ensure health and safety.

Permitted Development Rights for Solar Panels in the UK

In the UK, solar panels have “permitted development rights” from the government. This means that their construction can be carried out without the need for a planning application.

However, the building works need to fulfil certain conditions in order for the rights to be granted. This includes where the solar panels are placed, how they impact the building’s appearance and their size.

When Might Solar Panels Need Planning Permission in the UK?

Residential buildings

For solar panel installation on your private residential property, you do not need planning permission as long as:

  • solar panels are not installed above the ridgeline
  • solar panels do not stick out more than 200mm from the roof or wall

Ground-mounted solar panels

Requirements are stricter for ground-mounted solar panels (those mounted in the ground). In order not to apply for planning permission, these panels need to be:

  • the only ground-mounted solar installation
  • no taller than 4 metres
  • at least 5 metres from boundaries
  • a maximum of 9m²
  • outside the boundary of a listed building
  • not visible from the highway if in a World Heritage Site or conservation area.

Flat-roofed properties

If you are trying to install solar panels on flat roofs, you will likely need planning permission. Solar panels on flat roofs are placed to be angled towards the sun meaning they tend to exceed the 200mm limit allowed by permitted development rights.

Listed buildings

Listed buildings will always need to apply for listed building consent first. You apply through the local planning authority and they will assess whether the proposed building modifications are appropriate. It is illegal to go ahead with any work on listed buildings before securing the required consent.

Only after you have the listed building consent can you apply for planning permission.

Conservation areas

For properties on World Heritage Sites or in conservation areas, you will need to apply for planning permission in the following cases:

  • you want to install wall-mounted solar panels
  • you want to place them on the main or side elevation walls
  • the panels are visible from the highway

Do Solar Panels on Commercial Buildings Require Planning Permission?

The majority of commercial buildings will have permitted development rights for solar panel installations providing that they meet the following requirements:

  • Panels do not project +2m from the roof or wall and are a minimum of 1m away from the building’s external edges
  • Flat roof panels must project less than 1m from the roof’s surface ad cannot be the highest part
  • Ground-mounted panels are no more than 9m², no more than 3m in any direction and no higher than 4m

Before going ahead with solar panel installation, contact your Local Planning Authority.

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