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Advice On Best Sites and Designs for Solar Panels in the National Park

The Peak District National Park Authority wants to shed light on the best sites and designs for solar panels, particularly for owners of historic buildings.

The Authority, which welcomes renewable energy devices that do not harm the conservation of the national park, has produced an advice leaflet called "Design and Siting of Solar Panels" – also available online

Mainly aimed at listed building owners, the information is also useful to many other householders and businesses in the national park.

The advice is:

•    first, make your building as energy-efficient as possible with insulation and draught-proofing before even considering solar panels
•    choose the least obtrusive location for your panels
•    choose the least obtrusive design.

Despite recent relaxations in planning regulations, listed building owners will always need to get consent from the Authority to install solar panels. Other property owners are also advised to check whether they need planning permission before going ahead – do not take the installer’s word for it.

From the point of view of protecting the character of the national park, the best sites are:

•    in the garden. Ground-mounted panels are less obtrusive and easier to maintain. They also avoid damaging or overloading the roof which may mean costly repairs. However they do need planning permission.
•    anywhere that avoids the front roof slope. If you have a double roof you could put them on the inner slope, or behind a parapet, or on a modern detached building such as a garage, or on an extension or conservatory.

It may also be possible to put panels in an angled frame on a flat roof or a non-prominent gable wall, though that would rarely be approved on a listed building.

Design of panels is important too – the plainer, darker, thinner and least shiny the better, with matt dark framing. Panels blend in better if they cover the whole roof-slope of a side-building, or are in a line stretching the full width of the roof from edge to edge rather than sitting in the centre or to one side.

If re-roofing, the best option would be photo-voltaic panels that look like traditional roof-tiles or slates and fit in well with the rest of the roof. However that may not be appropriate for a listed building where original slates could be part of its heritage.

Historic buildings architect John Sewell said: “Solar thermal and photo-voltaic panels are an increasingly popular source of renewable energy and help reduce carbon emissions in the national park.

“We welcome people using them with careful consideration for the conservation of the national park. However, sometimes solar panels can look out of place and harm the area’s distinctive character, so this advice is aimed at helping people reduce their impact on our historic buildings and traditional villages.”

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