Northern Ireland Planning Service

Boost for solar energy in Northern Ireland - Attwood

Published on Fri, 19 Apr 2013 by ecomms@doeni.gov.uk.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood today announced that schools, businesses and farm buildings will no longer need planning permission for solar panels.
The change relates to microgeneration equipment, including solar panels which generate electricity or heat from sunlight.

The improvements will come into operation on 30 April 2013 and follow on from permitted development rights previously introduced for the installation of domestic solar panels on homes.

Alex Attwood said: “This is a good boost for a cleaner, greener Northern Ireland. By removing red tape around having to make a planning application, schools, businesses and farms will be able to enjoy the benefits of solar energy much more easily. For them it will mean cheaper, greener, cleaner energy. A win for consumers and a win for the environment.

“Increasing the range of development that no longer needs planning permission will make it easier for businesses and other non-domestic properties to install renewable energy technologies. Technologies such as solar panels, heat pumps, biomass boiler housing and fuel storage containers all contribute to reducing the impact of climate change.

“It is also little appreciated that much of Northern Ireland is in a ‘solar belt,’ where the quality of light and sun makes commercial solar feasible. I want to see domestic and commercial solar grow. Renewables can be one of, if not our biggest economic opportunity.”

Trevor Dornan from East Belfast Mission’s Skainos Square said: “Skainos had solar panels installed at the design stage of the build and we are really reaping the benefits. Solar energy makes sense for the environment and for our business - we have reduced electricity/heating bills and harnessing the sun’s energy fits with our organisation’s overall green aims to reduce, reuse and recycle. I encourage other organisations to install solar panels and I believe that removing the need for planning permission will make the process easier, quicker and more economical.”

The Minister concluded: “The extension of these permitted development rights will complement my ongoing planning reforms and help promote a speedier and more cost effective and responsive service to everyone.”

Notes to editors:

1. In Northern Ireland, the Planning (General Development) Order (NI) 1993 (S.R. 1993 No. 278 as amended) (the “GDO”) sets out what type of development can be undertaken without requiring a planning application. These are referred to as permitted development rights and often relate to minor building work that is non-contentious and has minor impact to neighbours and on the environment.
2. The Planning (General Development) (Amendment) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 (S.R. 2013 No. 96) is available at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/nisr/2013/96/made which comes into operation on 30th April 2013 and amends the GDO by revising existing permitted development rights for development by statutory undertakers and telecommunications to expand the scope of those rights and introducing specific permitted development rights for street trading and non domestic microgeneration.
3. The extension of permitted development rights will reduce the number of planning applications that need to be submitted for generally minor works. This will contribute to further streamlining the planning system and ensure that it concentrates resources on those applications that require detailed examination.
4. Business and other non domestic properties such as schools can install microgeneration equipment up to 50kw output, including solar panels, biomass boiler housing and fuel stores and ground and water source heat pumps.
5. Land can be temporarily used for street markets/trading where the trader has a street trading licence.
6. Statutory undertakers will benefit from expanded permitted development rights including rail safety systems, electricity lines for individual consumers of up to 400 metres, security fencing and CCTV for dock, piers and harbour undertakers, postal service pouch boxes, water and sewerage equipment housing and control kiosks.
7. Photos are available on request from the DOE Press office. All media enquiries should be directed to the DOE Press Office on 028 9025 6058. For out of office hours, please contact the duty press officer on pager 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

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