Solar panels and planning permission

Solar Panels on or within Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings

The following guide is intended to support homeowners in conservation areas wishing to install solar panels for electricity generation.


Placing solar panels on the roof of your house or flat, or on a building within the grounds of your house or flat, is considered in most cases ‘Permitted Development*’, whether this is in a conservation area or otherwise. This means that in general there is no need to seek planning permission from your Local Planning Authority (LPA) to proceed, subject to certain conditions. These conditions are that the solar panels:

  • will not stick out in front of the building, when measured horizontally from the wall or roof slope, by more than 20cm.
  • will not be positioned so that they are higher than the main ridge line of the roof, or higher than the highest flat roof where roofs on the building are flat. Chimneys, firewalls, parapet walls and other protrusions above the main roof ridge line or flat roof cannot be counted when considering the height of the highest part of the roof of the existing house or flat.
  • will so far as practicable, be sited to minimise their effect on the external appearance of the building.
  • will so far as practicable, be sited to minimise their effect on the amenity (attractiveness) of the area.
  • are removed as soon as reasonably practicable when they are no longer needed.

In addition, solar panels cannot be installed:

  • within a conservation area or World Heritage Site on a wall which faces the road.
  • on a site designated as a scheduled monument, or on a listed building (including any building within the listed building’s grounds).

*The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 – Schedule 2, Part 14, Class J

If there is any doubt regarding compliance with a) to g) above, it is recommended that you apply to your LPA for pre-application planning advice or a lawful development certificate (LDC) before starting works.

Where conditions a) to g) above cannot be met, or where your LPA has issued an ‘Article 4’ direction covering the area in which your property is located*, an application for planning permission will be required.

*Article 4 directions are made when the character of an area of acknowledged importance would be threatened. There is only one Conservation Area in Wirral to have an Article 4 Direction and that is Bromborough Pool.

Stand-alone solar panels within the grounds of a house or a block of flats (that is, panels not on a building):

You only need to apply for full planning permission (flats) or householder planning permission (houses) to install a stand-alone solar panel when any of the following apply:

  • more than one stand-alone solar panel would be installed.
  • it would exceed 4m in height.
  • it would be located 5m within the boundary of the property.
  • it would be installed within the curtilage of a listed building. Curtilage means within the garden or grounds.
  • in a conservation area, any part of the solar installation would be closer to a highway than any part of the house. A highway includes roads, paths and public rights of way.
  • the surface area of any stand-alone solar panel will exceed 9m² or any dimension of its array (including other equipment) would exceed 3m.

What could I consider when installing solar PV panels?

Make sure your building is as energy-efficient as possible, such as using insulation and draught-proofing.

Find out more on the Energy Saving Trust website

For more information relating to Historic Buildings and energy efficiency, please visit the Historic England website.

Key design considerations

Wirral Council is supportive of solar panel development where there is careful consideration for the protection of the heritage assets. We recommend that applicants consider the proposed design and location of solar panel development:

  • firstly consider installing the panels on the rear of a building so they are less visually prominent, in an angled frame on a flat roof, or on a modern detached building such as an extension, outbuilding or a garage. If this is not viable then consider the main roof of the house.
  • small-scale freestanding solar arrays that are well screened in enclosed gardens or closely linked to existing buildings within the curtilage of the property may be more preferable and less visually intrusive. Although this option is likely to require planning permission, it may have benefits because ground mounted panels are likely to be less obtrusive with no or minimal visual impact, easier to maintain, and have less impact on Wirral’s historic and traditional buildings.
  • where possible, use non-shiny materials that integrate well with the existing roof, such as a matte black colour.
  • site the installation to match the position of windows or other similar features on the existing building or surrounding buildings.
  • when choosing where to site the panels, try to minimise their effect on the external appearance of the building and on the amenity of the area.
  • remove the panels as soon as reasonably practicable when no longer needed.

Listed buildings

If your house or flat is a listed building you must also apply for listed building consent.

With the installation of solar panels on a listed building, pre-application advice should be sought in the earliest stages of the proposal. In some cases, they will also need planning permission. The listed status of the building means additional care and consideration is required in the placement of the panels. This will ensure that the character or appearance of the listed building is not harmed. In some cases, they will not be permitted. Before considering solar panels, it is best to improve the energy efficiency of the building in other ways to get the best out of the investment. Further advice can be found in the Historic England guidance which is available at the link above.

Building Regulations

If you wish to install solar panels on your roof, building regulations will normally apply. The ability of the existing roof to carry the load (weight) of the panels will need to be checked and proven. Some strengthening work may be needed. Building regulations also apply to other aspects of the work such as electrical installation.

Installers who are members of a relevant competent person scheme can self-certify certain types of building work, including the installation of solar PV, avoiding the need to seek separate building regulations approval. You are advised to check your installer is a member of a scheme covering the work they will be undertaking.

Solar Together Wirral

Wirral Council is working with Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) through the Climate Emergency initiative to reduce the region’s carbon emissions. Solar Together is a group-buying scheme, which brings households together to get high-quality solar panels at a competitive price.

Find out more about Solar Together