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Councils 'preventing solar installation'

The government is being urged to ensure local authorities do not prevent approved contractors from installing solar PV on private homes.

Renewable energy firm Eco Environments said it had been contacted by homeowners advised they could not install solar panels without planning permission or Building Regulation approval.

Eco Environments director David Hunt said: “Planning permission is not required unless you live in a listed building or conservation area and Building Regulations are not required as long as the homeowner uses a contractor under the government’s competent person scheme.

“Even in a conservation area, planning should be permitted and Building Regulations should not be necessary as long as the homeowner notifies the local authority and uses accredited installers.”

Changes were made to development rights for renewable technologies in 2008/9, lifting requirements for planning permission for most domestic microgeneration technologies.

Roof-mounted solar panels and solar thermal do not require planning permission unless they protrude over a rooftop by more than 200 mm after installation or if the building is listed or in a conservation area.

Mr Hunt added that he had been contacted by several MPs including shadow energy minister Huw Irranca-Davies who will raise the matter in Parliament.

Renewable energy adviser YouGen’s founder Cathy Debenham said councils had lost a revenue stream when planning permission was no longer needed for solar PV schemes and any council found providing the wrong advice should be held to account.

MP for Penrith and The Border, Rory Stewart said: “Something has clearly gone wrong in the correct regulating of planning laws in relation to solar panels. It is absolutely imperative that individuals, businesses and community groups are able to install PV with a minimum of fuss and regulation.”

Mr Hunt said Eco Environments said he had been contacted by residents in several areas who had raised concerns, including Cumbria, Lancashire and Kent.

He added: “The government needs to make it absolutely clear to local authorities everywhere that they have a duty to adhere to these rules rather than standing in the way of progress.”

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