Planning Permission for Air Conditioning Units

Air conditioning units are becoming more popular in the UK. They are a great way to keep your home cool in the summer, and many units also function as heaters in the winter. If you pick the right unit, they can be an efficient way to cool your home.

In general, planning permission is not required for air conditioning units. You can install most units under permitted development rights. This means you won’t have to apply for planning permission. However, large or noisy units may need planning permission. These external units also need siting appropriately. They cannot be too close to another property.

What is planning permission?

Planning permission is a system where you need to get consent from your local authority for certain building work. This allows local authorities to make sure building work is safe and appropriate. Local authorities across the UK enforce this system.

Permitted development rights cover certain kinds of building work. These rights mean that some work does not need planning permission.

Planning permission for air conditioning systems

You can install most air conditioning systems under permitted development rights. This means that you won’t need to apply to the local authority for planning permission. You can install many small air conditioning units in one room under these rights.

For larger central air conditioning systems, you might need planning permission. This usually depends on the size and location of the condenser unit. You don’t need planning permission for a central air conditioning unit as long as:

  • The external unit is not installed on a pitched roof
  • There is no wind turbine at the property
  • The external unit is not installed within 1 metre of the edge of a flat roof
  • The volume of the external compressor unit is not more than 0.6m³
  • The external unit is more than 1 metre away from the boundary of the property

Noise regulations

One of the most common issues with air conditioning is the noise of the external compressor unit. Both split unit and central systems use an external compressor. These need locating appropriately as they can be very noisy.

The noise of a unit is not covered by specific regulations as part of the planning permission system. But a noisy air conditioning system could cause noise pollution. If your neighbours complain, the local authority could force you to move or remove the unit. To make sure this isn’t a problem, choose quiet air conditioning units with ‘soft start’ technology. Also, make sure that they are an appropriate distance from neighbouring buildings. You could also install sound proofing such as fencing or bushes.

Listed buildings and conservation areas

There are extra restrictions in place for listed buildings and conservation areas. If you want to install air conditioning you will probably need planning permission. You’ll also need listed building consent. However, if the unit is quiet and not visible on the front elevation of the property, you might not need it. You should check with your local authority, as regulations vary in different areas.

Planning permission is not usually required for air conditioning systems. For large units with outdoor compressors, it’s a good idea to check with your local authority. Make sure you position these units appropriately. If you’re not sure who your local authority is, use the government’s search tool.