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Planning, building and the environment

Solar power homes get the go-ahead for April start

Published 13 March 2008

New rules to allow homeowners to install solar panels, ground source heat pumps and other microgeneration technologies to help cut carbon emissions were given the green light today by Planning Minister Caroline Flint.

From April 6, all homeowners will be able to install microgeneration equipment, like solar panels, without needing to get planning permission, as long as there is clearly no impact on others.

Currently, the energy used to heat, light and run our homes accounts for 27 per cent of all of the UK's carbon emissions - around 40 million tonnes. Many householders want to install microgeneration technology, but are often put off by the time and cost involved in getting planning permission first.

The new regulations being laid in Parliament today will help to add to 100,000 households that have cut both their fuel bills and carbon footprint by installing microgeneration equipment in their homes, without them having in future to go through the planning application process.

Planning Minister Caroline Flint said:

"We want to make it easier to help people reduce their carbon footprint. Technology like solar panels can make a real difference, but homeowners can be put off by the time and expense of getting planning permission. We think it is right that people have more freedom to make these changes providing it has no impact on others.

"These new rules, together with our world-leading timetable for all new homes to be zero carbon from 2016, are a key part of our commitment to tackle climate change by reducing emissions from housing."

The Government has made it clear that it will legislate further to allow free-standing and building-mounted wind turbines on detached properties, and air source heat pumps to be installed without needing planning permission, but has to await clearance from the European Commission. We expect to be able to do so later this year.

The Government has worked closely with industry to agree a micro-generation certification scheme that will ensure these technologies in particular are sufficiently quiet in their operation so as not to cause a nuisance for neighbours.

Energy Minister, Malcolm Wicks, said:

"The fight against climate change is not just about multi million pound renewable energy projects. Solar panels, biomass and heat pumps also have a vital role to play. Installing small-scale devices has just become a lot easier for homeowners. Microgeneration enables the concerned individual to become an active citizen in tackling global warming.

"Now planning permission has been relaxed, I believe this will encourage more people to install these devices. The Government's Low Carbon Buildings Programme even provides grants for homeowners towards the costs."

We are also exploring how we can extend to business the use of microgeneration in commercial and agricultural business. It is estimated 30-40 per cent of the UK's electricity could be met by installing microgeneration equipment to all types of building by 2050.

A recent report by UKGBC said that businesses should be set a long term timetable for achieving zero carbon. Commercial buildings currently account for 18 per cent of carbon emissions.

The Government is also reforming the planning system so more small scale household improvements no longer require planning permission. Almost 90,000 householders a year will be taken out of a system, which can cost them up to £1000, for minor home improvements like loft conversions.

Notes to editors

1. The amendment allows for the installation of solar photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal, ground and water source heat pumps, biomass heating and combined heath and power systems on or within the curtilage of the dwelling house.

2. Size limitations have been set to reduce impact on neighbours. Solar panels attached to the building must not protrude more than 200 millimetres from the roof slope and stand alone panels must not exceed four metres above ground level or more than five metres from the boundary.

3. The Microgeneration Certification Scheme has been set up to ensure high standards for all microgeneration technologies. For micro-wind and air source heat pumps, the government has indicated to Parliament that it will require that neighbours are not exposed to noise levels exceeding 45 decibels. This limit will be reviewed after two years.

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