Getting Planning Permission for Renewables

In general, planning permission is required for wind turbines but is not usually needed to install solar pv panels, solar hot water panels, geothermal heat pumps or biomass boilers.  It is still important that you check this with your Local Planning Authority (LPA).  Things are changing for wind turbines though!  The English, Scottish and Welsh Governments are all considering making wind turbines permitted developments if they meet certain criteria.  Here we try to keep you up-to-date on the situation and guide you to where you can find out more for yourself.


Local authorities have the main responsibility, so for any specific planning questions it's best to contact your local planning officer.


Current legislation

Planning Policy Statement 22 (PPS22) sets out a clear national policy framework on renewable energy for planning authorities in England to ensure that the Government's renewable energy targets are met.


Under PPS22, regional and LPAs should recognise the full range of renewable energy sources, their differing characteristics, locational requirements and the potential for exploiting them subject to appropriate environmental safeguards. Small scale developments can also be permitted within areas such as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Heritage Coasts provided that there is no serious environmental detriment to the area concerned. PPS22 introduces a new policy area for small systems by encouraging LPAs to require that new developments should supply a percentage of their energy needs from onsite renewable energy sources.


Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has specific guidance on location of wind farms in Scotland, which is contained in their policy statement Strategic Locational Guidance for onshore wind farms in respect of the natural heritage to be read in conjunction with the National Planning Policy Guidelines on renewable energy (NPPG6). Paragraph 7 deals specifically with smaller wind turbines and states that the special rules required for wind farms do not apply to small scale wind turbines: "The guidance only applies to the consideration of onshore wind farms, and it excludes small wind developments of a domestic or small business scale, typically single turbines of under 50kW capacity, which may be accommodated satisfactorily in most landscapes and in relation to which strategic guidance of this sort is unnecessary."

In other words, your local authority is meant to be encouraging this type of thing.


Permitted development

In April 2008, the rules were relaxed regarding planning permission in England for some forms of renewable generation. Permitted development rights were given for installation of solar thermal, solar pv, heat pumps, micro CHP and biomass technology, meaning you will not need planning permission to put them on your property.  There are exceptions.  The details, which are pretty brief, are in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2008 .


Wind turbines and air source heat pumps still require planning permission.  There is a promise of something to follow - standards for devices that will be granted permitted development status probably - and the website we have been told to check for updates is the Microgeneration Certification website. Small wind energy installations require planning permission and local consultation with relevant stakeholders, such as neighbours. Deciding factors include environmental considerations, access to the site, noise and visual effect. Overall, national planning policies support the development of small scale wind energy, as noted below. We also offer some more technology-specific advice on getting planning permission for your wind turbine.


The government held a consultation from November 2009 to February 2010 concerning changes to Permitted Development Rights. The proposed changes for wind turbines are as follows:
•    Stand-alone within curtilage of a domestic building may be erected free from planning permission to a maximum overall height (including hub and blade) of 11.1m (extended to 15m for building mounted turbines, including building, hub and blade). No parts are to protrude more than 3m above the highest part of the roof or dwelling house and the turbine blade diameter can be no more than 2.2 m in diameter.
•    Permission will be granted only if the turbine and installation is MCS certified to ensure industry standards are adhered to.
•    No permission will be granted if the proposed site is within a NATS/MoD/CAA safeguarded area, in order to prevent interference with air traffic control. If the proposed site is
•    Noise levels can be no greater than 45dB LAEQ, 5 min at 1m from the window of a habitable room, in order to limit the risk of disturbance to neighbouring residential users. Additionally, non-reflective parts are used for the blade materials to avoid flicker.
•    There is a limit to the number of turbines that can be installed on particular site so that the impact of cumulative noise may be limited. Any more installations would require another application for planning permission.
•    For any equipment no longer used for microgeneration to be removed as soon as possible to prevent the accumulation of unused apparatus.
The BWEA, now RenewableUK, have proposed a change to the size-limits and for the noise levels to be maintained, in order to allow the micro-wind turbine industry to prosper.


In Scotland,  planning permission is still required for all microgeneration systems.  This could be changing, with an Order having been laid in the Scottish Parliament on 6th February 2009.  Latest information should be available here (Scottish Permitted Developments) and here (Renewable Energy Policy).


For other countries in the United Kingdom, you will need to check with your LPA.  It is always good to check with your LPA the current situation where you live before proceeding.



Case studies

David Cameron MP got the go-ahead from Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council for his domestic wind turbine in July 2006. However the planning committee did impose a size limit on the turbine and insisted on grey colouring to make it less obtrusive. They also told him that he must renew the planning permission after three years. Planning rules are more sensitive in Mr Cameron’s locality, because his property is located in a conservation area. The permission was granted despite some opposition from neighbours. The turbine, however, was taken down again within a few days as it had been fitted to the wall of the house, not the chimney stack as had been a requisite of the planning permission.


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