Scotland and England appear to be diverging on planning arrangements for microgeneration. It could be said that the environment in Scotland is becoming more favourable, while in England the Government may be reassessing its previously very positive stance.

In general, micro generation facilities installed outside an existing building will count as development for the purposes of planning. This means that permitted development rights are crucial in encouraging microgeneration, since planning fees and administrative hassle tend to put off potential developers.

The Scottish Government earlier this year granted non-domestic permitted development rights for microgeneration by ground- and water-source heat pumps, solar thermal and PV, anaerobic digestion and biomass, in addition to the existing, recently extended domestic rights. England carried out a consultation on new non-domestic permitted development rights last year, but that is where matters have remained so far. This doesn’t mean England won’t eventually go ahead – there just doesn’t seem to be the same urgency.

In Scotland, planning authorities are required by law to include a “Merton rule” in their local development plans (i.e. a rule requiring that new buildings avoid a proportion of their projected greenhouse gas emissions by installation of low- or zero-carbon generating technology). Meanwhile the Merton rule has disappeared from the new draft National Planning Policy Framework for England.

The Merton rule is a somewhat inflexible approach since it prioritises generating equipment over other, perhaps simpler and cheaper, measures for energy efficiency. The Scottish Government’s original approach was to impose energy efficiency requirements through building regulations that would have allowed more flexibility. The Merton rule requirement was proposed in the Scottish Parliament by the opposition, as a measure to encourage decentralised energy generation.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Scotland now forges ahead of England in microgeneration.

Renewable Energy