Solar hot water panels, also known as solar thermal panels, are an environmentally friendly way to provide hot water for your home. For many installations, you won’t need planning permission for solar hot water panels as they are permitted developments. These rights set out the types of building work that you can carry out without needing to get planning permission from your local authority. However, if you’re in a conservation area or your home is a listed building, you will need planning permission.
What is planning permission?
Planning permission is a process by which local authorities can consent to building works done on your home. When considering whether to give planning permission, authorities take into account relevant legislation and other factors such as neighbouring buildings and the condition of the surrounding area.
However, many kinds of building work do not need planning permission at all as they are permitted developments. These rights cover domestic solar thermal panels, which means that you can have them installed without having to apply for planning permission.
Are there any restrictions?
There are limitations on installing solar hot water panels under permitted development rights. There are different requirements for building mounted and standalone solar thermal panels.
If your building mounted installation does not meet these conditions, you will have to apply for planning permission:
- The solar thermal panels cannot protrude higher than the highest point of the roof.
- The panels cannot extend further than 20cm from the roof or wall.
- The equipment should minimise the effect on the appearance of the building.
- Remove any equipment that doesn’t work as quickly as possible
There are different conditions for standalone solar hot water panels under permitted development rights:
- This must be the first solar installation on the property.
- The installation is no higher than 4m and no larger than 3×3 metres.
- The installation must be at least 5m from the boundary of the property.
Conservation areas or listed buildings
It is still possible to install solar thermal panels if you have a listed property or are in a conservation area. However, you will generally need planning permission and the restrictions are much stricter. Ask your local authority for guidance if your property is in one of these areas.
For many domestic solar thermal installations, planning permission should not be a big issue. However, if you are planning a particularly big solar hot water installation or are unsure about any aspect of the planning regulations, speak to your local authority as soon as possible. It is always better to ask for advice and be honest about your intentions. Retrospective planning applications can be expensive, and if refused you will have to take down your solar thermal panels at your own expense.
You can check who your local authority is here. Their website may offer advice about planning regulations in your area.