Q: The General Permitted Development (Amendment) (England) Order 2008 allows solar panels on principal roof slopes, including in conservation areas, as long as they are sited to minimise visual impact on the building's external appearance and the area's amenity.

Home owners wish to completely cover their south-facing front roof slope with solar panels, which would be very harmful to a conservation area. The owners have not demonstrated whether they have explored other less harmful locations such as on outbuildings, the rear roof slope or mounted on a pole in the back garden. Would we be within our rights to say that the order's conditions have not been met and require an application? CM

A: The 2008 amendment extended permitted development rights for solar photovoltaic and thermal equipment in conservation areas subject to specified criteria. Class A.2 says that a panel should, "so far as practicable, be sited so as to minimise its effect on the external appearance of the building". So an applicant only has to say that it is not practicable to site it elsewhere. CM may wish to try and get proof of this. But if the householders want a certain size of system, it may be that only one roof is big enough to accommodate it. It is difficult, maybe even impracticable, to split a system across several smaller roofs. If there is an alternative roof on an outbuilding, it may not be structurally sound. This raises questions over whether it is reasonable to require a structural survey. In any case, how far should planners pursue these tests when the government is encouraging renewables in a very robust way? An appeal decision in Dorset last year (

) considers some of these issues. Amendments to the order due to come into force on 1 December do not affect the issue raised by this question. Dave Monk

Class A.1 (h) (iii) of the October 2008 amendments to the General Permitted Development Order 1995 states that a side extension to a house is not permitted development if its width would be greater than half the width of the original dwellinghouse. The Department for Communities and Local Government's August 2010 technical guidance is silent on whether a "half width" extension on each side of a detached house on a large plot would be permitted, thus doubling its width. I do not think that this can be the order's intention, but I would be grateful for your views. KZ

It has been put to us that if a planning application is submitted for the demolition of an existing building in a conservation area and its replacement by a new building, there is no need for the applicant to submit a separate application for conservation area consent for the demolition because this is covered by the planning application. I cannot find anything in the legislation to support this view. We would welcome clarification. RA

Do you have an answer to these questions? If so, please email it to Forum editor John Harrison at by 9 November. We also welcome your queries, which can be emailed to the same address.

PlanningResource features two online forums dedicated to development management matters. On the forums you can comment on questions raised in this column, or comment on other development management-related topics. Go to for details.

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