Photovoltaic equipment, heat pumps and other apparatus for generating electricity at home may become a common household feature in the not too distant future.

The aim of the government’s microgeneration strategy published March 2006 was to create conditions under which microgeneration becomes a realistic alternative or a supplementary source of energy for householders, communities and small businesses. The strategy identified the planning regime as an inhibiting factor in encouraging the use of domestic microgeneration equipment because of confusion over whether planning permission is needed to install it and inconsistency between local planning authorities in the way in which they interpret the rules relating to permitted development.

In addition, in 2006 the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Planning Inspectorate commissioned a review of permitted development rights in relation to the installation of micro-generation equipment by householders. This work formed the basis of a consultation paper issued by the DCLG in April 2007.

The government wants a more permissive regime and to remove the need for planning permission to install microgeneration equipment, thereby encouraging greater use of this technology. As a result there is a new part 40 into the GPDO. It lists six new classes of permitted development for the installation of certain types of microgeneration equipment on or within the curtilage of dwelling houses or flats subject to certain conditions and restrictions.

The new classes of permitted development came into force in April this year and include the installation, alteration or replacement of any of the following equipment within the curtilage of a dwelling house:

  • Solar PV or solar thermal equipment;
  • Stand alone solar equipment;
  • A ground source heat pump;
  • A water source heat pump;
  • A flue, forming part of a biomass heating system on a dwelling house; and
  • A flue, forming part of a combined heat and power system on a dwelling house.

Somewhat surprisingly, the technology perhaps most associated with renewable energy, wind power, is not amongst the list that now benefits from permitted development rights and so planning permission will be required to instal wind turbines regardless of their size.

Whilst part 40 will make installing microgeneration equipment easier in planning terms the cost of installing the equipment remains, it seems, a major obstacle to its widespread use. Until that changes, microgeneration will only have a limited part to play in reducing carbon emissions.