In an important move to encourage more rooftop solar power in the agricultural, industrial and commercial sectors, the government has proposed extending permitted development (PD) to large solar roofs up to one megawatt in size.
In principle, this will free virtually all agricultural rooftop solar power from the need for planning permission.
This is a helpful policy measure that was promised in the April 2014 Solar Power Strategy, following input from the NFU and the Solar Trade Association.
Currently planning permission is not required, in most cases, for solar schemes of up to 50 kilowatts. This size is equivalent to an agricultural building of around 400 square metres, such as a grain barn, dairy shed or vegetable store about 25 by 15 metres.
"If the consultation proposals are implemented later this year, this will be a very welcome reduction in planning bureaucracy and 'red tape' for farmers investing in one of the most popular kinds of renewable energy", said NFU chief renewables adviser, Dr Jonathan Scurlock.
"Solar roofs up 20 times the present size limit will no longer require formal planning permission in most cases."
Restrictions on permitted development are expected to be similar to those that currently apply to highway frontages in designated landscapes, listed buildings, etc.
One possible concern is that the new PD rights may be subject to "prior approval to consider the siting and design, in order to minimise the impact of glare on neighbouring or overlooking properties" (paragraph 2.89).
The NFU will seek clarification that the government does not intend to amend the existing PD for "microgeneration" up to 50 kW (currently exempted from prior notification under Section 43 of the rules) to bring all solar roofs under these new proposed rules.
These proposals form part of a wider consultation by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on “Technical Planning Issues”.