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Written - Permitted Development Rights for Householder Microgeneration

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Carwyn Jones, Minister For Environment, Planning & Countryside

In the Climate Change Written Cabinet Statement, published on 13th December 2006, I signalled my intention to introduce permitted development rights, at the earliest opportunity, to allow householders to install domestic microgeneration equipment.  In pursuit of my policy initiative the Assembly Government supported Michael German`s motion relating to the installation, alteration or replacement of micro-generation technologies in or on a dwelling house which was approved in Plenary on 17 January 2007 (NDM3399).  This Cabinet Written Statement describes in more detail the issues and process that will be followed to bring forward appropriate secondary legislation.

As part of the evidence base for the new permitted development rights the Assembly Government jointly commissioned research with Communities and Local Government.  The research has reviewed the existing provisions of the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) in relation to the installation of all microgeneration technology and their operation.  The research also included recommendations on how the GDPO could be amended to facilitate the installation of microgeneration equipment, whilst ensuring that the amenity of neighbours and the wider community is not unacceptably compromised.

At the moment, with regard to solar and photovoltaic generation, much installation of those particular forms of energy is already covered under permitted development.  A letter was sent to local authorities in 2003, and reiterated on 1 February 2006, stating that solar panels and photovoltaic panels that do not project significantly past a roof should normally be counted as permitted development. Similarly, heat exchangers and biomass boilers would normally be covered within permitted development. It is with regard to small wind turbines that my proposals would have greatest effect.

Assembly Government officials are currently considering how my policy initiative and the research recommendations can be translated into clear and concise secondary legislation.  In drawing up the secondary legislation, a number of issues will need to be addressed.  Whilst I want to ensure that the legislation is as permissive as we can reasonably make it, particularly where there is no impact beyond the host property, it is essential that the planning system continues to control development that unacceptably impacts upon others.  The potential for impact will depend upon the technology employed.  For example, domestic wind turbines and air source heat pumps, if inappropriately sited could have the potential to create noise and vibration nuisance at neighbouring properties.  Similarly, underground pipework associated with ground source heat pumps have the potential to disturb archaeological remains.  Cumulative visual impacts will also have to be considered.

Current permitted development rights acknowledge the importance of protecting certain designated areas, including National Parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and conservation areas.  Within these sensitive areas permitted development rights are more limited.  Given the compelling need to reduce Carbon emissions, I am minded at this stage not to propose additional limitations on permitted development rights for the installation of domestic microgeneration equipment in sensitive areas, with the possible exception of conservation areas.  The installation of microgeneration equipment on a listed building will continue to require listed building consent.

The legislation will need to be sufficiently precise to give householders certainty over what is/is not permitted development for each technology, the size and scale of the permitted equipment, its location in relation to neighbouring properties and acceptable noise levels.  There is also a need to accommodate new and emerging microgeneration technologies.  We have to guard against householders being put off investing in the technology and the potential for neighbour disputes.

A consultation paper is being prepared that will issue early in the summer, subject to the agreement of the incoming Government.  The consultation paper will include proposals for a new part of the GDPO that will deal specifically with the installation of domestic microgeneration equipment.  A draft householder guide to the installation of domestic microgeneration equipment will be issued for consultation at the same time.  Any changes to be introduced, as a result of the consultation, will require amendments to secondary legislation, later this year.  It is also my intention to explore the scope for similarly changing the permitted development rights for non-domestic buildings.  This proposal would similarly be subject to consultation.