Solar Panels – Seek Advice Says Carmarthenshire Planning Committee Chair

Owners of historic listed buildings are being urged to seek advice on planning consent before installing solar panels on the roof of their home or nearby out-buildings.

This advice follows action being taken against the owner of a Grade II listed building in Brechfa, Carmarthenshire, for placing solar panels on a barn within the curtilage of one of the county’s oldest homes.

“Installing solar panels on listed buildings or in a conservation area without planning permission can cause considerable grief and cost to the owner,” said Cllr Alun Lenny, Chair of Carmarthenshire Planning Committee. “The onus is on the owner to check the status of the building before proceeding with such a scheme. Solar energy companies cold calling residents asking if they are interested in installing panels may not always inquire about the status of the building. It’s a case of “let the owner beware.” It’s worth noting that there are 1,800 listed buildings in Carmarthenshire alone.

“My advice is simple. If a householder is in any doubt, I would urge him or her to pick up the phone and call the council’s Planning Department.  Even if a property is listed, sympathetic development may be allowed, as an appropriate balance has to be struck between protecting historic building and allowing a viable option to secure the future longer term uses of such buildings.

“We must also bear in mind that the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill currently going through the Assembly aims to introduce greater transparency and accountability into decisions taken on the sustainable management of the historic environment.

“In the Brechfa case, the owner installed solar panels on a barn in the curtilage of a listed building some three years ago. His application for Planning Permission was refused in July 2013.  The owner appealed the decision but an independent Planning Inspector turned down the appeal last December, as “the works fail to preserve the special historic interest of the barn and the setting of the Listed house.” If the panels are not removed within nine months, court action may be taken.”

Historic note: Fforest house, Brechfa mainly dates from the 1720s, but parts go back to Tudor times.  The older part has arrow-slit type windows. (Historic Carmarthenshire Homes, Francis Jones 1987)