Consultation on increasing the permitted development limit for non-domestic rooftop PV to 1MW – government response

DCLG Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, submitted a written ministerial statement to Parliament on Wednesday 25th March, covering a wide range of planning topics. This included the government’s response to Proposal J of its Technical consultation on planning (published July 2014, closed 26 September 2014), which proposed increasing the “permitted development rights” (PDR) limit for PV on commercial properties from 50kW to 1MW. His statement said the following:

“My department supported [the government’s solar PV strategy] by consulting on reforms to permitted development rights which will encourage the take up of much larger scale solar power generation (solar photovoltaic) on non-domestic buildings and complement the existing flexibilities for home owners. These reforms allow for a 20-fold increase in the amount of solar that can go onto the roofs of non-domestic buildings such as warehouses and offices without having to submit a full planning application, subject to strict safeguards to protect local amenity. The proposals have been widely welcomed by the solar industry, and the measure will come into force from 15 April 2015.”

The detail of the government’s response can be found in Statutory Instrument 2015 No. 596 The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015. This Order, which comes into force on 15 April 2015, provides a welcome consolidation of regulations for all areas covered by PDR. PART 14 of the Statutory Instrument (SI) (pages 98 – 108) consolidates previous SIs on PDR for domestic and non-domestic renewable energy. Class J of PART 14 (pages 103 – 105) covers the “installation or alteration etc of solar equipment on non-domestic premises” and is reproduced in full in Appendix 1 of this note. You should refer to the online SI as your master source and take professional advice with respect to its interpretation; the views given below are the REA’s interpretation only.

Class J covers both solar thermal and solar PV for microgeneration, defined as up to 50kW, and covers only PV for larger installations, restricted to a size of 1MW in clause J.3. It appears that the PDR provisions pertaining to microgeneration in the previous SIs have been carried across wholesale into the consolidated version, albeit with modified structure. Sections J.1 and J.2 apply to all classes under Part J.

Section J.3 covers the larger PV installations up to 1MW (described as “Class J(c)”) and Section J.4 lists a range of requirements that must be met in order for these to be eligible for PDR. Clause J.4 (2) states the main condition that applies to Class J(c):

“Class J(c) development is permitted subject to the condition that before beginning the development the developer must apply to the local planning authority for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the authority will be required as to the design or external appearance of the development, in particular the impact of glare on occupiers of neighbouring land, and the following sub-paragraphs apply in relation to that application.”

The ensuing sub-paragraphs include a requirement for the application to include a written description of the proposed development and a plan indicating the site and showing the proposed development. A fee may need to be paid.

The local planning authority (LPA) must give notice of the proposed development by displaying a notice in at least one place on or near the land to which the application relates for not less than 21 days and by serving a notice in that form on any adjoining owner or occupier. If the LPA has not informed the applicant within 56 days that prior approval either is, or is not, required, then approval is deemed to have been given. The LPA may impose reasonable conditions when granting prior approval.

REA comment

Whilst there remain some uncertainties concerning the prior approval process, we welcome this extension of permitted development rights for PV on non-domestic buildings up to 1MW, and are pleased that the need to apply for prior approval only applies above 50kW. We would be grateful if members could let us know of any issues or difficulties encountered with the prior approval process, and how it compares with the need to apply for full planning permission.

Appendix 1: Extract from Statutory Instrument 2015 No. 596 – PART 14 – Renewable Energy, Section J covering solar energy on buildings.

Renewable Energy Association

30 March 2015