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Solar panels and permitted development

If certain limits and conditions are met, the installation of solar panels and equipment on houses or blocks of flats may be classed as 'permitted development', in which case planning permission is not needed.

The permitted development rights relating to solar panels is contained within Part 14 (Renewable Energy) of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015I.

If you are a leaseholder you may still need to get permission from your landlord, freeholder, or management company.

Check if your installation is permitted development

The following criteria must be met for permitted development rights to apply:

  • Panels cannot be installed above the highest part of the roof (excluding the chimney) and should project no more than 0.2 metres from the roof slope or wall surface (or on a flat roof, from the plane of the roof)
  • If your property is in a conservation area, panels must not be fitted to a wall which fronts a highway. This includes roads, paths, and public rights of way. 
  • The panels must not be installed on a listed building or a building that is within the garden or grounds of a listed building
  • Equipment on a building should be sited, so far as is practicable, to minimise the effect on the external appearance of the building and the amenity of the area (see checklist below).
  • When no longer needed equipment should be removed as soon as reasonably practicable

If you cannot comply with these limits and conditions, you will need to obtain planning permission.

Solar panels on listed buildings will require planning permission and listed building consent.

Some conservation areas are subject to Article 4 Directions. However, a review of these has established none of these have specifically removed permitted development rights for solar panels.

Checklist to minimise effect of the panels

In identifying suitable locations to position panels, a contractor will often consider the most adequate location based on where the panels will be exposed to the greatest amount of sunlight throughout the day to maximise their efficiency. However, this may not be the best position to minimise the effect on the external appearance of the building and the amenity of the area.

Of suitable locations identified, the visual impact of the panels will be most significant when positioned on roof slopes visible from public views. Wherever possible, panels should therefore be positioned in an area where they are the least visible. It is accepted that in certain cases this may not be reasonably practicable, especially if there is only one suitable roof location.

There are a number of ways the visual impact of panels can be reduced, and the following list should be used to determine whether solar panels are sited ‘so far as practicable’ to minimise their effect:

  1. Applicants should demonstrate that the chosen location is the most suitable in terms of exposure to the greatest amount of sunlight to maximise efficiency. This should be supported with evidence from the provider and an explanation as to the impact on the efficiency of the units if the panels were located on an alternative roofslope, less visible from public viewpoints
  2. When the specific roof slope has been selected, applicants should demonstrate how the visual impact has been minimised:
    a) The panels have been evenly spaced on the roof slope and not in an irregular pattern
    b) The panels have been positioned to retain even distances to roof margins (ridge, eaves, party walls) and/or wall margins
    c) The panels have where possible been placed behind parapets or roof features such as chimneys, where these features do not cause shading issues
    d) Cabling has been located to minimise visibility and colours are in keeping with the colour of the building exterior

The points above should be discussed with your contractor to minimise the visual impact of the installation.

Get confirmation

Our pre-application service can help you clarify if you can install solar panels under permitted development rights. This service is free if your application is specifically related to promoting sustainable development (which includes installing solar panels). There will be a charge if sustainable measures are not the main purpose of the development.

We highly recommend you take this step if you are proposing to position the solar panels on a roof slope of a property which fronts the highway, especially if it is in a conservation area.   

You can also apply for a Lawful Development Certificate to prove an existing or proposed solar panel does not require planning permission and complies with the permitted development limitations and conditions.

If you need planning permission

If you need to do so, you can apply for planning permission online through the Planning Portal website. Read step-by-step instructions and check what information you will need to submit with your application.


Contact the Richmond Planning team as soon as possible if you are unsure whether you need planning permission or are likely to do so.


Up to: Planning

Updated: 12 April 2024

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