As long as solar PV and wind power have been around, there have been neighbours who complain about them. Whether it spoils their views or makes too much noise, there is always someone ready to complain. What I want to look at here is what you can do about it – both to avoid the issue in the first place and what you can do if your neighbours aren’t happy.
Preventative measures are best
No one wants the headache of having to deal with the neighbours’ complaints, so the best thing you can do is ensure the project is properly planned in the first place, both to meet the necessary regulations, and to ensure the neighbours are happy. Always contact your local planning department before you install your system and get confirmation that your plan is satisfactory. It has been known for local planning authorities to order the removal of improperly planned installations, so don’t be caught out!
You can find more information about the regulations for Solar PV here
You can find more information about the regulations for Wind Turbines here
What can they do?
If your installation is permitted development, or has planning permission, there isn’t too much your neighbours can do legally. But you don’t want to damage your relationship with them. They can still make your life difficult and create unpleasantness if their concerns are not addressed.
There are ways to limit the impact on the neighbours:
Out of sight, out of mind – Many complaints come because of the visual impact on the area. Ensuring your renewable system is hidden from view will keep complaints at bay. Siting solar panels out of the public eye is clearly dependent upon the position of your roof, and wind power ideally needs to be situated away from any sheltered areas like trees. So this isn’t always possible!
Inform your neighbours – Letting your neighbours know of your plans is really important, even if planning permission is not required. Write a letter, and if you are on good terms, have a chat with them. When people feel included in your plans they are more likely to be understanding. Provide them with as much information as you can – the model, the position, the expected noise / visual impact. It is better to hear people’s concerns and try to react to them before the installation occurs than trying to rectify them afterwards.
Perhaps most important is being able to respond to any concerns they may have. In many cases, people just don’t fully understand renewables and the impact they have. When it comes to wind turbines especially, many people hear the extremist criticisms in the papers and worry about the impact on them. Wind turbines as part of a permitted development, for home use, are small (span less than 3.8 metres) and generate very little noise. Further, they have to be positioned some distance from other properties and have a maximum height to reduce the visual impact.
Whilst there are some genuine concerns with a large commercial turbine, which can generate more noise and have a larger visual impact, domestic turbines are a completely different beast. Solar PV should have no impact other than visual, and there are far worse improvements that can be made to a property in terms of visual impact – even when the panels are placed on the front of the property.
So don’t let this turn you away from what is a very effective, sensible investment for your property. Renewables are here to stay and you would do well to take advantage of them right now. Just make sure your neighbours are informed and kept in the loop!