Can I install solar panels on a listed building?

There are a lot of great things about living in an old period home is pretty, but trying to heat and power them efficiently and in an eco-friendly way can be a real challenge. Living in a listed building doesn’t necessarily mean solar panels are not an option, but you will have to be clever about it, and also obtain permission from the relevant authorities.

What do I need to bear in mind when getting solar panels on a listed building?

For most homes, solar PV is a permitted development, meaning you don’t need permission before installing a system. Because of the delicate balance of preservation and living standards with listed homes, you will need listed building consent from your local council.

In order to obtain approval, the solar panels must be deemed not to damage the character or appearance of the building, or to cause major structural changes. Historic England states that they consider ‘minimum intervention and reversibility’, i.e. it would have to look like the solar panels were never there once they were removed. This involves some clever planning between the homeowner and installer. Panels can look fairly discreet if you are careful about angling; another option is putting them in the garden or grounds, rather than on the roof.

Something else to consider is that some traditional roof materials will not work well with solar panel installations. Thatch roofs, for instance, will get get thinner over time and need new materials added after a few years (probably long before the solar panels need replacing). This means you would need to be able to get around/underneath the panels to carry out these works. Installing solar panels will also be complicated with lead sheet roofing and slate roofs. A possible solution could be a good aesthetic – if expensive – option in future.

How do you get permission to install solar panels on a listed building?

You will need to start by choosing a good installer, then getting a form from your local council. They will guide you on what to include in your application, and may be able to give you an idea of how likely you are to be successful.

Be aware that you may need planning permission as well as listed buildings consent, and also that you might have to pay for your application. For more information, visit the Planning Portal.

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