The DCLG has issued a consultation paper on proposed changes to permitted development rights in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995.

It proposes to remove the need for householders to apply for planning permission to install domestic microgeneration equipment such as solar panels, heat pumps and wind turbines.

For some time the Government has expressed a wish to encourage greater use of domestic micro-generation equipment because it can see the potential it could make towards meeting our future energy needs in a sustainable way. The consultation paper mentions a study undertaken by the Energy Saving Trust for the Department for Trade and Industry's Microgeneration Strategy which suggested that 30-40% of the UK's electricity demands could be met through the use of these technologies by 2050.

The planning system is sometimes seen as a barrier to domestic microgeneration, because of uncertainty over whether planning permission is needed or not (a difficulty not helped by different views being taken by different planning authorities) and the time and trouble involved if an application for permission has to be made.

The proposed changes would allow for certain types of micro-generation equipment to be installed by reference to various criteria mentioned in the proposals. To give a flavour of them:

?? Solar panels on buildings to be permitted as long they do not project by more than 150mm from the existing roof plane and no part of the installation is higher than the highest part of the roof;

?? Wind turbines to be permitted on buildings (one on a building of under 15m in height and a maximum of 4 on buildings above 15m) as long as the height does not exceed 3m above the highest part of the roof, the blade diameter is less than 2m and subject to noise and vibration thresholds;

?? Water and ground source heat pumps are to be permitted without any restrictions (although licences may be required from the Environment Agency).

One is sometimes struck by how little micro generation one sees installed in the UK in comparison with some other European countries. Whilst this is in no doubt mainly due to the cost of the equipment at the moment, rather than the planning system, the changes proposed in this consultation paper foreshadow, the Government hopes, roof top wind turbines and photo voltaic equipment becoming a much more common sight.