Can You Install Solar Panels in a Conservation Area?

The UK government wants more people to install solar panels, so the regulations for solar energy are often relaxed, even in conservation zones or when listed buildings are involved.

The purpose of a conservation area is to safeguard a location’s culture, architectural history, or distinctive characteristics.

In the UK, there are no less than 10,000 conservation areas, and every local authority has at least one.

So what are the rules? In this guide we explain the typical guidelines and how things can differ if you live in a conservation area.

What is a Conservation Area?

2.2% of England is covered by conservation areas, which is a larger area than the entire country of Luxembourg.

The legislation protects the feel of a place, like a town or village, instead of individual buildings that are located within a conservation area.

If there’s a listed structure in a conservation area, be aware that it has different regulations.

You need the local planning authority’s approval to do anything to these structures, like expanding them or changing them in any way- solar panel installation included.

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Solar Panel Building Regulation Codes:

If you’re doing any construction or renovation work in the UK, it’s important that you follow the current building rules, whether you’re adding an extension, self-constructing a home, renovating a historic building, or installing a new kitchen or bathroom.

The building regulations have some very specific instructions when it comes to the installation of solar panels, these include the following:

  • The two main areas are the structural safety of a building (Part A) and the electrical safety of a building (Part P).
  • Your roof must be able to support the additional weight of rooftop panels and the electricals of the system must be safe.

Recommended reading:

What Rules Apply To Conservation Areas?

There are several things you can and cannot do if the property you own or rent is in the conservation area.

Solar panels can be installed within conservation areas although you need to abide by the rules to get permission from the planning authorities.

Even without obtaining planning clearance, there are a few guidelines that must be followed:

  • Avoid installing solar panels on walls that face a road.
  • Not putting in standalone solar panels near a road where your house is located.

Please note that if your solar panels are to be installed in a conservation area and you want them to be wall-mounted, the following rules apply:

  • Planning consent is required when panels are to be installed on the principal or side elevation walls and they are visible from the highway.

Important note: it is always advised that you check with your local planning office if you are unsure about your installation plans, especially if you live in a conservation area or World Heritage Site.

Do You Need Planning Permission for Solar Panels?

Solar panels may be considered “Permitted Development,” which means that a permit or planning permission is no longer required.

According to the government’s extension of permitted development rights, non-domestic buildings no longer need to obtain planning approval in order to install solar PV or solar thermal systems.

However, there are still some rules that remain, depending on whether it a domestic or commercial solar panel installation:

Domestic Solar Panels

Solar panels for domestic properties do not require planning permission as they are permitted development, however, this is as long as they meet the following criteria:

  • Panels should not be installed above the ridgeline and should project no more than 200mm from the roof or wall surface. 
  • If your property is a listed building then you will require consent from the local planning office.
  • Ground-mounted solar installations will typically require planning permission, however, the planning portal implies that you don’t require planning permission if the system meets the following criteria:
    • No higher than four metres;
    • At least 5m from boundaries;
    • The size of array is limited to 9m2 or 3m wide and 3m deep;
    • Should not be installed within the boundary of a listed building;
    • In the case of land in a conservation area or in a World Heritage Site it should not be visible from the highway;
    • Only one standalone solar installation is permitted.

Commercial Solar Installations:

If you are planning to install solar panels on a commercial property, then different rules apply.

Regulations introduced in April 2015 deem most non-domestic solar installations below 1 MW as permitted development, so as long as they meet the following criteria:

  • Panels are kept below 200mm perpendicular protrusion from the plane of the roof or wall (pitched and wall installations);
  • Panels are at least 1m from the external edges of the building (pitched and flat roof installations);
  • Panels protrude less than 1m from the roof surface and cannot be the highest part, excluding the chimney (flat roof installations);
  • ground-mounted array is no more than 9m2, no more than 3m in any one direction and no higher than 4m.

Permitted development does not apply to the following:

  • The solar panel installation is on listed building on a building that is within the grounds of a listed building, or on a site designated as a scheduled monument;
  • If the building is on Article 2(3) designated land and the equipment is not installed on a wall or a roof slope which fronts a highway;
  • There is more than one ground-mounted system within the curtilage.

Related solar guides:

Can You Put Solar Panels In A Field?

The best locations for solar farms are either flat terrain or a hill that faces south.

Planning authorization is required for ground-mounted solar panel installations larger than 9 m2 (4-5 big solar panels).

However, it is always best to seek advice and confirmation from your local planning office.

Therefore, all solar farms need to obtain planning authorization. Typically Solar farms in the UK require approval from a number of strict planning processes before construction can start.