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Solar PV restrictions on historic homes to be eased

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Restrictions surrounding the installation of solar PV systems on historic homes are set to be eased, as part of a UK Government review titled ‘Adapting historic homes for energy efficiency: a review of the barriers’ published earlier this week.

The review considers how the 350,000 listed homes and 2.8 million in conservation areas can be more easily adapted to improve their energy efficiency. Conducted by the Departments for Energy Security and Net Zero, Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Culture (DLUHC), Media and Sport, it broadly concurs with Solar Energy UK’s view that rules concerning the installation of solar PV panels on these type of buildings are unduly complex and restrictive.

A way to cut through such red tape is already available, via Listed Building Consent Orders (LBCOs), which can provide permission for certain alterations or extensions to listed buildings in England. Local Listed Building Consent Orders (LLBCOs) may also be issued by English local authorities. However, so far only one has liberalised the regime for solar  installations: Kensington and Chelsea Council. This allows panels to be installed if they do not face roads and do not protrude more than 20cm from the roof.

As it states, there was a common perception among contributors to the review that “Obtaining planning permission or listed building consent took ‘too long’, which not only led to frustration but could also mean losing out on financial support. It was suggested that some people have been put off from pursuing retrofit measures for their home by their perception that the planning process is too complex and uncertain to navigate.”

As things stand, certain energy upgrades require planning permission, some require separate listed buildings’ consent, whereas others require neither.

The review speaks positively about extending such provisions, not least because there is “significant variance” in how applications for solar photovoltaics are handled across the nation, “sometimes owing to poor planning knowledge and/ or practices”, it adds.

As an initial response, DLUHC will work with Historic England to issue clearer guidance on which energy efficiency measures require planning permission or listed building consent. Historic England will also publish planning advice for councils on climate change and historic buildings.

A consultation will follow on the role of LLBCOs and the potential for an LBCO to be made granting consent for certain upgrades across the whole of England. This could include solar panels.

Commenting on the review, Mr Chris Hewett, Chief Executive of Solar Energy UK, said:

“It is plain to see that there is far too much bureaucracy getting in the way of installing solar panels and other energy upgrades, where they can be done in an appropriate and respectful fashion, on England’s older buildings. So I am glad to see that the government is pushing forward with making the confusing series of existing rules clearer, while easing them in the longer term.”  

The Government’s plan follows legislation issued late last year, The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development etc.) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2023), which extends permitted development rights for solar power to domestic flat roofs and most commercial buildings, including the establishment of a new permitted development right for solar canopies.

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