Plan To Make Solar Panel Installations On Old Buildings Easier

The Eco Experts

The government is planning to make it easier to install solar panels on listed buildings or ones in conservation areas.

Currently, residents in historic buildings need to get planning permission for solar panels, and for some other types of energy efficient retrofits, from their local authority.

However, last week the Departments for Energy Security and Net Zero, Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Culture (DLUHC) published a review on how the current system of rules for renovating historic homes was a barrier to improving their energy efficiency.

To solve the issue, the DLUHC intends to publish new guidance for local planning authorities, and draft a new development policy for retrofits on historic buildings.

Additionally, it wants to encourage local authorities to grant more Listed Building Consent Orders (LBCOs), particularly for solar panel installations. For context, LBCOs give homeowners permission to make alterations or extensions to listed buildings.

rural red brick house with solar panels on roof

What are the barriers to installing solar panels on historic buildings?

It’s technically possible to install solar panels in conservation areas or on listed buildings, but this requires first applying for listed building consent, and then for planning permission.

These extra steps exist to protect and preserve old buildings, by limiting the amount of changes you can make to their outer appearance. Unfortunately, they’re also what's stopping people in listed buildings from making their homes more energy efficient.

According to the DLUHC review, a substantial number of homeowners in historic properties felt the “planning process [was] too complex and uncertain to navigate”, so much so that they didn’t bother trying to apply for planning permission.

It doesn’t help that what are considered “acceptable” changes to historic buildings vary by local authority, according to the DLUHC review.

In the case of solar panel installations, the DLUHC found that some local authorities accepted almost all applications, while others were much more restrictive. In other words, getting planning permission for solar panels approved is currently a bit of a postcode lottery.

How many homes could benefit from changes to planning rules?

Around 370,000 listed homes, and 2.8 million homes in conservation areas, across England could benefit from these changes to planning rules.

Unfortunately, a lot of old buildings are energy inefficient. Around 80% of homes built before 1930 in England and Wales have Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings of D to G, the lowest bands.

But these low EPC ratings could all be improved if the government makes it easier for people to install solar panels for their home, as well as other energy saving measures, such as heat pumpsdouble glazing and insulation.

Not only will this help lower energy bills for people in listed buildings, it will also reduce the country’s  emissions, as household emissions make up around 17% of the UK’s total.

Written by:
Tatiana has written about multiple environmental topics, including heat pumps, energy-efficient household products, and solar panels. She is dedicated to demystifying green tech to make eco-friendly living more accessible.
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