Homeowners who want to install green energy devices such as solar panels and wind turbines may no longer need planning permission to do so, under proposals announced today by the communities secretary, Ruth Kelly. Unveiling the plans, Ms Kelly said she believed the local planning system “should support efforts to tackle climate change rather than acting as a barrier”.
But she said the new rules would apply only to “microgeneration” devices with little or no impact on neighbouring homes.
Local authorities would retain the right to restrict permission in exceptional circumstances, where the environmental benefit of the technology was questionable or it was outweighed by its impact on the neighbourhood.
“It is important that we ensure that there are clear, common-sense safeguards on noise, siting and size and that the unique features of conservation areas are protected,” Ms Kelly said.
The plans, which are open for consultation until June 27, cover all types of home energy production, including solar panels, biomass, ground source heat pumps and wind turbines.
Restrictions would still surround each energy source. Solar panels exceeding roof height or standalone panels less than five metres from a neighbour’s property could still not be installed without permission, for example.
Planning permission would also have to be sought in conservation areas and developments where panels could be seen from the road.
The consultation paper said more than 100,000 microgenerating devices had already been installed across the country. Removing some planning restrictions and providing new incentives, as outlined in the forthcoming energy white paper, could increase by eight times the number of households that produced energy as well as consuming it, the paper said.
Ms Kelly said increasing the take-up of microgeneration technology would “help us meet a significant proportion of our future energy needs”.
Householders, who stand to save money in the long run by cutting their emissions, have shown an increased appetite for green energy in recent years. According to the government, south-facing solar photovoltaic panels can cut a household’s electricity bill by up to half, while a ground source heat pump, although costing at least £6,500 to install, can save a family £750 a year.
Last year B&Q became the first mainstream DIY store to sell green-energy producing devices such as solar panels and wind turbines.
Hilary Osborne
Wednesday April 4, 2007
Guardian Unlimited