Scottish rooftop solar now exempt from planning permission 

Scotland’s solar energy industry has warmly welcomed the removal of the need for planning permission for solar panels on rooftops in Scotland. 

Solar panels on a rooftop and blue skies.

The Scottish Government’s eagerly anticipated overhaul of permitted development rights (PDRs) for rooftop solar has now officially come into force. Previously there was a 50 kilowatt upper limit for permitted rights for rooftop solar on domestic and non-domestic buildings, above which full planning permission was required. 

The changes will have a really significant benefit for business and commercial rooftops to help reduce energy costs. This move follows the removal of non-domestic rates for rooftop solar in last year’s budget, which industry also campaigned for. Both these changes will eliminate considerable barriers to rooftop installations. 

The chair of Solar Energy Scotland, Thomas McMillan, welcomed the announcement: “We have campaigned for this change for a number of years. Simplifying the planning process for rooftop solar will make a substantial difference to Scotland delivering six gigawatts of solar by 2030.

Quicker, easier and warm welcome

“With energy costs continuing to be stubbornly high, solar remains one of the most effective ways of reducing the charges of running residential and commercial buildings: this change by the Scottish Government makes the process of installing solar quicker and easier and is warmly welcomed.” 

Flat roof systems can also be installed under permitted development, provided they do not protrude more than one metre from the roof surface. Even solar in conservation areas can be permitted development under certain circumstances, such as not being on primary elevations or fronting roads. Only World Heritage sites and listed buildings are exempt from the new changes. 

Solar Energy Scotland has advocated this change for many years. The new rules remove costly, time-consuming red tape which will speed up the deployment of solar panels on rooftops and help Scotland achieve its climate and solar deployment targets, as well as enabling easier access to cheaper energy for consumers and businesses. 

Scotland, England and Wales have all now removed an upper limit to their PDR guidelines. There are some differences based on the type of building, so regulation in each nation should be followed to avoid any planning violations. 

Other changes to the solar landscape include free-standing solar panels permitted within the curtilage of non-domestic buildings (up to 12 square metres) and restrictions relaxed for solar canopies, which now no longer require their primary purpose to be powering electric vehicle chargers – this was seen by the industry as an unnecessary constraint. Industry aims to continue dialogue with the Scottish Government on whether the curtilage limit could be extended in future.