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Can I Use Solar Panels In a Conservation Area?

The UK government is keen for more of the nation’s residents to install solar panels, which is why regulations are relatively lenient — even in conservation areas or where listed buildings are concerned. 

However, there are some restrictions in place. In this post, we explain all you need to know about installing solar panels in conservation areas and how to make sure your installations remain within the regulations.

What is a conservation area?

In the United Kingdom, a conservation area is somewhere of special architectural or historic interest.

First introduced back in 1967, there are now around 10,000 conservation areas situated across the UK in both urban and rural areas. For example, whole villages such as the rural Osmotherley can be classed as conservation areas, or historic centres in urban areas such as London’s Alexandra Palace.

Conservation areas do not concern the individual buildings situated within the area. Instead, it is the whole character or feel of an area, such as a town or village, which is protected by the law. 

Be aware that listed buildings within conservation areas are subject to their own regulations. These buildings cannot be demolished, extended or altered without permission granted by the local planning authority. This includes the installation of solar panels. 

General solar panel installation rules 

Solar panels are classed as a ‘Permitted Development’. This means that in a majority of cases there is no need to seek planning permission from a Local Planning Authority (LPA) to proceed. 

Below are some rules to follow when installing solar panels on a building in the United Kingdom:

  • The panels cannot be on the highest part of the roof (excluding chimneys)
  • They cannot stick out more than 20 cm from the roof
  • The panels should not have such an impact on the building that they negatively affect its architectural and aesthetic integrity
  • Solar panels which aren’t in use must be removed as soon as possible

Installing solar panels in a conservation area 

The following regulations apply when installing solar panels on listed buildings, in World Heritage Sites, or conservation areas: 

  • The panels must not be installed on a building within the grounds of a listed building or on a site designated as a monument
  • If the property is situated in a conservation area, or in a World Heritage Site, solar panels must not be fitted to a wall that faces a road

If you live in a conservation area and want to install solar panels, contact your local council who will decide if the changes you want to make will maintain the aesthetic of your area.

Building regulations to consider 

There are some building regulations that your installation must meet including the following:

  • The ability of the existing roof to carry the weight of the panels must be checked and proven
  • Building regulations also apply to other aspects of the work such as electrical installation

If the building does not meet the regulations there may need to be some strengthening or electrical work undertaken. 

If you are still unsure about installing solar panels

If you are unsure about any compliance you should contact your LPA for pre-application planning advice or to get a lawful development certificate (LDC) before starting the installation work. 

If you cannot meet the regulations — or where your LPA has issued an ‘Article 4’* direction covering the area in which your property is located — you will be required to apply for planning permission. 

*‘Article 4’ directions are made when the character of an area will be threatened by installations including solar panels. This is most common in conservation areas. Contact your LPA are unsure whether your property is affected by the direction.  

Planning Portal 

If you do apply for planning permission, take a look at the Planning Portal website. Follow the instructions to start applications. You can then log in to track any ongoing applications. 

The interactive guides and common project helpers are designed to make the process easier.

How to find out if your property is listed 

The National Heritage List for England (NHLE) website has a record of all the listed buildings in England.

Can I use solar panels in a conservation area?

As outlined in this post you can install solar panels in conservation areas but must ensure they meet a number of planning permissions. 

If you have any questions or want to start your solar panel journey, contact the Project Solar team