Government urged to bring councils into line over Solar PV schemes

Published:  27 May, 2011

UK: A leading renewable energy company has called upon the Government to stop councils going against laws intended to encourage solar power schemes.

Clear rules spell out how homeowners can have solar PV installed as long as the work is done by a fully approved contractor.

However, a number of councils are going against the Government’s guidance by wrongly telling people they require planning permission or Building Regulations approval.

David Hunt, a director with Eco Environments, which has six offices across the UK, said: “The Government’s rules are clear. Planning permission is not required unless you live in a listed building or conservation area and Building Regulations are not required as long as the homeowner uses a contractor under the Government’s Competent Person Scheme.

“Even in a conservation area, planning should be permitted and Building Regulations should not be necessary as long as the homeowner notifies the local authority and uses accredited installers.

“The Government needs to make it absolutely clear to local authorities everywhere that they have a duty to adhere to these rules rather than standing in the way of progress.

“The majority of councils do comply, but a small number seem hell bent on causing as many problems as possible. By doing so, they are discouraging people from pursuing renewable energy solutions for their homes and cocking a snook at the Government’s environmental agenda.”

David added that he had been contacted by Shadow Energy Minister Huw Irranca-Davies who had promised to raise the matter in Parliament. Fellow Shadow Energy and Climate Change Minister Luciana Berger has also pledged to take the matter up with the Government as has Conservative MP Rory Stewart.

Cathy Debenham, the founder of renewable energy champion You Gen, said: “Councils lost an important revenue stream when they were told that they should no longer require planning permission for solar PV schemes.

“By trying to persuade homeowners into believing they do need permission, or at the very least Building Regulations approval, maybe they are attempting to cling on to some kind of ongoing income.

“What is the point of Government making laws if councils are going to ignore them. Any council which is pursuing such an agenda deserves to be held to account as their actions fly completely in the face of the Government’s policy of encouraging homeowners and businesses to embrace renewable energy solutions wherever possible.”

Eco Environments’ campaign was triggered by reports it received from homeowners in Cumbria’s Eden Valley who had wrongly been told they needed to secure Building Regulations approval. Other examples have since emerged in Lancashire, Kent and elsewhere.

David Hunt added: “The Government should publish a simple, definitive guide for councils to follow which make it clear that there is no room for local authorities to make up their own rules and regulations. Perhaps then we will finally see a 100% consistent approach towards renewable energy schemes across the country.”

Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and The Border whose constituency includes Eden Valley, said: “Something has clearly gone wrong in the correct regulating of planning laws in relation to solar panels. It is absolutely imperative that individuals, businesses and community groups are able to install PV with a minimum of fuss and regulation.”

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