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Green Building Bible, Fourth Edition
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    My local council asks people to submit plans to a pre-planning approvals process, I assume to help the planning go through more smoothly. I submitted a request for solar panels on both east and west facing roofs and was told to reduce the number of panels on one of the roofs as it could be seen from the public highway. We live in a conservation area.

    I did this and submitted the plans (2kw on one roof, 1 kw on the other). They emailed me and said I needed to add some extra details before they could submit for approvals. I updated the documents as they asked and then at the last minute I decided 'blow it' and I changed to my original idea of having 2kw on each roof and submitted the details.

    I'm wondering now if that was a wise move. Does anyone have experience of the planning process for solar panels? If you go against their advice, are you doomed to failure?

    I have had listed building advice from the same council in the past but gone against it and had no problems getting approvals. Often their 'advice' is aesthetic and is more about the personal taste of the planner than strict planning laws. I was worried that this was the case again with the panels and that they would have been approved regardless and so I would have missed out on 1kw of generation for nothing.

    If they refuse permission, does anyone know the appeals process? Do you have to start again from scratch or can I just resubmit with the 1kw array and have it passed?
    • CommentAuthorcjard
    • CommentTimeDec 10th 2015
    Pre-apps usually come with a disclaimer that theyre officer opinion and are worth nothing in the eyes of planning policy. On the back of that planners are human beings (and sometimes fucking awkward ones at that) who might well feel put out if their carefully considered and prepared (read: copied and pasted from every other time they've been called upon to trot out their opinion) guidance goes unheeded. Ultimately, if a council is asking for it to be the norm i think it's because they're trying to establish sufficient doubt or emotional sway in your mind with regards to your proposals, before the crunch comes as to whether anything is to be truly done about it. Theyre more likely to be able to get you to change your plans to match their opinion and personal preferences when it isn't being followed up with black and white wording of local planning policy, or before you've done any serious research into what you can and cannot do according to what is written and decreed

    Wait your 8 weeks (or whatever) then see if the other favourite trick of "if you don't change it, it will be refused - you're recommended to withdraw" pops up 2 days before the deadline.. Appeal time!
    • CommentAuthorCWatters
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2015
    If your application has to go to committee you might be able to see the Planning Officers recommendation a few days before the committee meeting makes the decision. So you could wait and see what that report says, then either cross your fingers or ask for the application to be put on hold while you change it. Bear in mind meetings are only held every 4 weeks so missing one might mean a >4 week delay. When do the FIT rules change? End of Jan or Feb?
    You could put 2 applications in at the same time, the 2kW/1kW and also the 2kW/2kW
    so all bases covered then.
    You can meet the FIT deadline with the scheme that they already consider acceptable (it's not clear if they have actually confirmed that 2/1 is acceptable?) and then really push it with the 2/2 scheme.

    Make sure the "some extra details" that they have requested are actually dealt with as requested otherwise neither scheme may succeed (well not very quickly anyway without an appeal, and I'm guessing time is of the essence?!)
    They would both be householder applications with the same red line Location Plan so it may be that you only have to pay half the fee for the second application - not 100% sure on this, fees are not my speciality.

    Just properly read your comment that you have a listed building which makes a planning application necessary. Initially I just thought you were just in a conservation area which shouldn't require and application.
    The council have already started playing silly beggars. They won't even submit the planning request until I provide scale drawings of the building I'm putting the panels onto, despite the fact that I'm not making any alterations to the building.

    I knocked up a scale plan of the roof, showing the size of the roof and panels. Hopefully this will meet their requirements. I can't get away from the feeling that they use delaying tactics to manage their workload. I checked on the planning website and my request has still not appeared on there.
    My Council planning department (Lewisham) is very over loaded. Documents take ages to be validated and appear on their website. However, they do back date the docuemnts once they are uploaded (assuming no issues) to the application date so you don't lose any time. However, this does rely on them not finding any issues in the validation process which can cause delays.

    I've had conversations with planners about installing street facing panels on my self build which is in a conservation area. They can't sop me, but can make me jump through hoops which unfortunately they are doing as they don't want to promote panels in the conservation area.
    It's like the COP21 summit on Global Warming hasn't taken place. Do councils not realise that to achieve the tough 1.5c target, everyone has to do their bit?
    I don't think it is an excessive request for scale drawings of the building that the panels are to go on, one set as existing and one as proposed (with the panels on). This would be to show what the proposal will look like.
    I was not aware that it was a listed building, it's quite unusual for them to even entertain PV on the roof of a listed building - I have however known ground-mounted be allowed in the garden.
    It's all pretty moot now anyway, there is no way I can get PP in time for the savage cuts to FITS. That's that then.

    UK Government and my council 1 - The planet and common sense 0.
    Lead times are obviously very tight now with the building trade effectively shutting down for two weeks over Christmas but on my self build I am doing:
    - Solar panels going on the rear roof slope today
    - The solar panels which I intend to put on the front will be sited on racks in the garden
    - The panels in the garden will be moved onto the front roof slope at a later date. (I anticipate doing this under permitted development once my house is built. I appreciate you have a greater risk with a listed building.)
    You could just JFDI and then apply for retrospective PP.

    • CommentAuthorCWatters
    • CommentTimeDec 19th 2015 edited
    Posted By: richardelliot I've had conversations with planners about installing street facing panels on my self build which is in a conservation area. They can't sop me, but can make me jump through hoops which unfortunately they are doing as they don't want to promote panels in the conservation area.

    Are you sure they can't stop you? Has the confusion over what is meant by "so far as practicable" changed or been resolved...



    "You are interpreting the phrase "so far as practicable" in relation to the efficiency of the installation however this term refers to whether or not the panels can be installed in such a way as to minimise the effect on the building/amenity of the area. For example to comply with these conditions we would usually expect the installation of solar panels on a mid-terraced property to be on the rear rather than the principal elevation. Whilst most properties benefit from permitted development rights not all householders are able to utilise them."
    After spending a day of being despondent, my natural can-do attitude came to the fore and I decided to go ahead with the solar installation without planning permission and pray to the Green Gods of Renewable Energy that the council don't spot it and that they allow the full 4kw.

    I'm not usually so reckless but with the impulsive nature of the current government, I just don't see what else I could do? I'm totally bricking it at the moment, but what's done is done. My panels are fitted, the forms will be sent to my Feed in tariff provider today by email (Good Energy) and baring a disaster, the feed in tariff will be locked in before they fall off a cliff tomorrow.
    Good luck!
    Planners don't usually have the manpower to chase of their own accord, they only do that if they receive a complaint. So hopefully you don't have nosey neighbours and good luck.
    • CommentAuthorowlman
    • CommentTimeJan 13th 2016
    I know the feeling P.o.S., I've done something similar as an extension to an existing array.
    • CommentAuthordb8000
    • CommentTimeJan 13th 2016
    It's not clear whether your current building is listed or whether a previous building you were involved with was listed.

    Just be careful though

    It's a criminal offence to make alterations that affect the special character of a listed building without consent.

    It's not a criminal offence to make changes to an unlisted building without consent.
    The house is listed but I've put the panels on the roof of a modern detached double garage that was built long after the house was listed. Our house is actually a converted mill which was derelict for many years. The mill was part of a farm and the whole lot was listed at the same time. Years after the listing, someone bought and converted the mill to a house, along with some land around it to form a garden.

    When I originally started talking to the LBO, her view was that although the garage is modern, it's in the curtelage of the listed building. After a bit of research, I'm wondering if our house really has a curtelage because it was a commercial property when listed and the land around it formed part of the farm. It's now a garden and fenced off, providing the boundary lines, but it wasn't when the mill was listed.

    A bit of grey area that may give me some wriggle-room should it be necessary.
    • CommentAuthorowlman
    • CommentTimeJan 14th 2016
    I think you are allowed to ground mount some panels in your garden should things go sour. Maybe not as many as you'd like.
    Posted By: Pile-o-Stone

    A bit of grey area that may give me some wriggle-room should it be necessary.

    Sounds like it is black and white with the LBO.
    Interestingly, the LBO got in touch and has asked me to withdraw the LBC application because they ruled the garage is not part of the listing as its not a curtilage building. I do have to continue with the planning permission though as the building is in the curtilage of the listed building (the planning permission was split into PP and LBC when I submitted it).

    That seems contradictory to me? Does anyone understand the rules around this area?
    • CommentTimeJan 15th 2016
    I'm afraid I don't know the rules, but I do know that they are exceedingly complicated and not deterministic - i.e. it will require a court case to find the answer if it comes down to it. I'm interested in the question and the answer because we built next to a listed building, in its garden, and I'm not sure what my rights are.

    The best resource I know is Martin Goodall's Planning Law Blog (or possibly paying for his professional services depending how serious it gets). A search for 'planning law curtilage' (without the quotes) brings up some of the relevant entries on his blog as well as some other interesting links.

    e.g. http://planninglawblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/curtilage-confusion-3.html
    • CommentTimeJan 15th 2016
    Posted By: Pile-o-StoneInterestingly, the LBO got in touch and has asked me to withdraw the LBC application because they ruled the garage is not part of the listing as its not a curtilage building. I do have to continue with the planning permission though as the building is in the curtilage of the listed building (the planning permission was split into PP and LBC when I submitted it).

    That seems contradictory to me?

    Rereading your message, I don't see a contradiction. The garage is not listed, so you don't need LBC. But the garage is in the curtilage of a listed building so the permitted development rules are more restrictive and they think what you want to do is not permitted development so it does need planning permission. Or am I spouting nonsense?

    I've no idea how fees work either - do you have to pay for this planning permission, even though its necessary because of listing rules?
    • CommentTimeJan 15th 2016
    PoS, AIUI the council are saying that your garage was not in the curtilage when the main building was listed but is now within the curtilage of a listed building so permitted development doesn't apply for adding solar panels to it, so you need planning permission. Buildings within the curtilage of a listed building are excepted from the solar permitted development rules.

    Whether you get approval or not will likely stand on whether the panels affect the setting of the listed building which will be a rather subjective assessment. If it is refused you can always appeal but be aware of the time constraints for doing so.
    Well the council have found out about the panels and have been on site taking photographs. I assume that hoping for a reasonable response will be in vain and the same ire will be thrown at me as at that farmer who built a house and hid it behind a haystack for 2 years or if I had demolished the listed building rather than put a few panels on a modern garage roof.

    Let drama commence. :(

    Does anyone have experience of starting work before planning permission is granted? I assume mitigating circumstances where the government changed the goalposts on FIT payments are not acceptable?
    • CommentAuthordb8000
    • CommentTimeFeb 5th 2016 edited
    Every building has a curtilege and it's a matter of fact and degree in the circumstances. Whether your garage is within the curtilege of the listed building is impossible to tell without looking at it. If it is though, be aware. You don't want to end up in the magistrates!

    If you get a planning enforcement notice your best bet might be to apply for planning permission retrospectively.

    It is a criminal offence not to comply with a PCN In he time limit specified in the notice.

    FIT payments are irrelevant to the planning merits, I'm afraid. However your application should be dealt with in the same way as if you had applied in advance.
    We are fast approaching the end of the consultation period and the council will have to make their ruling on our 'proposed' solar panels.

    I went onto the planning portal to see if there had been any updates, objections or other comments and noticed that they have added "(Retrospective)" to the title of our planning application. It's refreshing that they didn't make a drama out of the whole thing and simply changed the planning application to a retrospective one. I'm hopeful that they have no real objections and so this will go through OK.

    Not long to wait to find out.
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