Do You Need Planning Permission For Solar Panels in the South East?

April 7, 2023


Installing a solar PV system is a great addition to almost any home, but we often get asked about whether you will require planning permission. In this guide, we’re going to explore whether you need planning permission for solar panels, whether you can install them in a conservation area, and what to do if you live in a listed building. We’re experts in installing solar systems across Sussex and the South East, so if you can’t find the information you need below, don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be able to help.

Do I need planning permission for solar panels?

More often than not, you don’t need planning permission to install solar panels on your own property. A solar panel installation usually falls under what’s known as Permitted Development - the same legislation that allows you to install things like sheds in your garden, or replace windows in your home. 

If you’re planning on installing solar panels on the roof of your home, the roof of most types of outbuildings, or any walls that are your property, you should be OK to proceed. This applies to detached, semi-detached and terraced houses. However, there are some rules that need to be adhered to, such as if you live in a listed building or in a conservation area, and it’s always best to check with your local planning authority to confirm whether or not planning permission is required in your specific situation.

What are the rules for solar panels under Permitted Development?

Solar panels fall under the Permitted Development rules provided that they:

  • Are not installed above the ridgeline and project no more than 200mm from the roof or wall surface. If panels are mounted parallel to the roof on a sloping roof, you’ll almost certainly meet these requirements. However, it’s unlikely you will if they are mounted on a flat roof. In this instance, the panels will be mounted at a minimum 5-10 degree slope to the horizontal and will project more than 200mm above the roof.

  • If your property is in a conservation area or World Heritage Site (we don’t have any of these in Sussex), planning consent is required to fit panels on the principal or side elevation walls, and they can be seen from a road. If you’re planning on fitting solar PV to the walls of a building in your garden or grounds they should not be visible from the road. 
  • If your property is a listed building, the installation is likely to require an application for listed building consent. This is likely to be the case, even where planning permission is not needed. Again, make sure you check your plans with the local planning office.

  • If you live in a flat or apartment in a shared building, it’s very unlikely that a solar installation will fall under Permitted Development, and will therefore require planning permission. According to Planning Portal, “equipment on a building should be sited, so far as is practicable, to minimise the effect on the external appearance of the building and the amenity of the area.”. Also, if you are a leaseholder you will likely need permission from your landlord, freeholder or the management company.

  • If you’re planning on installing a larger ground-based solar system, this will likely require planning permission. However, if it is less than 9 metres squared (3m x 3m), no higher than 4 metres, is located at least 5 metres from any boundary, is not located on the property of a listed building, and is a single, standalone installation, you should fall under Permitted Development rules. If you live in a conservation area, it must also not be visible from a road or highway.

If you’re in any doubt, it’s often worth checking with your local authority regarding your solar plans and getting their response in writing. They’ll be able to give you proper guidance for your area and help you avoid costly mistakes. 

Are commercial solar panels Permitted Development?

The rules around installing solar panels on commercial properties and Permitted Development are largely similar to the domestic ones. The main difference is that if your system will produce more than 50kW of power, you will require planning permission.

Solar Panel Building Regulations

It’s important to note that all solar panel installations, regardless of whether they’re domestic or commercial, must adhere to relevant building locations in your area. With solar, these will mainly relate to the structural and electrical safety of the building. Specifically, the roof must be able to support the weight of the panels and all the electricals of the system and the building must be safe.

Sussex Solar Panel Installation

In Sussex, there are a lot of conservation areas in towns such as Brighton & Hove, Worthing, Eastbourne and Lewes, as well as countless listed buildings and the South Downs National Park itself. If you’re unsure about which rules will apply to you, don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to help. 

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