Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) is the first council in the country to introduce a new listed building consent order, giving permission for solar panels on most Grade II and Grade II* listed buildings, without the need for individual listed building consent. Previously, residents of listed buildings had to obtain individual consent to install solar panels on their property. This was difficult and time consuming, which put many residents off.
RBKC have over 4000 listed buildings in the borough, of which around 70 per cent are in a conservation area. Owners of such buildings were required to gain individual listed building consent if they wanted to install solar equipment. This made it difficult and expensive for homeowners to install solar panels, making it an unrealistic choice for many people.
RBKC introduced a Local Listed Buildings Consent Order, so residents of Grade II and most Grade II* listed buildings no longer need to apply for individual consent to install solar panels. There are conditions about the positioning, materials and fixings that can be used, protecting the appearance and fabric of listed buildings, requiring a simple application to the Council.
Applications for listed building consent are free, although processing them still requires officer time. For the Council this means that for a relatively small amount of effort up front they can free their specialist heritage officers for more complex applications, with no loss of income.
Residents will save the time and expense of preparing a full application for listed building consent. Normally they are able to get sign-off of the details using the information provided by their solar equipment installers
The Council hopes this policy will encourage more residents to consider solar as an energy source, helping them to meet their 2040 net zero target for the borough.
How is the new approach being sustained?
The Council is keen to promote take-up of this measure and will be providing information, including design advice for residents, intended to encourage its use. Development management officers have already been briefed on the Order and will be receiving more detailed training to help them in signing off the details.
This is a new venture, so the Council will be monitoring its take-up and effectiveness, which will be published in an annual report. The Order can be modified to respond to changing circumstances, such as technological improvements. The Council aims to ensure that it remains effective in enabling the take up of renewable energy while continuing to protect the borough’s historic buildings.
Measures such as this (and the similar Heritage Partnership Agreements) are sometimes characterised as requiring too much preparation time and resources to justify their use. However, the Council has found that the preparation of the Order to be a relatively straightforward and rapid process. They are looking for high levels of take up, but even moderate take up would represent a proportionate use of resources.
The public consultation revealed strong support from those residents who responded, and from local conservation societies. This suggests a strong public appetite for measures such as this.