Solar panels and heat pumps OK on listed buildings, says Historic England

Chippenham Hall in Chippenham, Cambridgeshire, has its solar panels in the garden [Photo from Historic England Archive]

Listed building consent will always be required for the installation of photovoltaic and solar thermal panels, Historic England says, but they will generally be acceptable on non-principal roofs.

Similarly, the installation of heat pumps will generally be acceptable, provided that they are sympathetically sited, it says. It says: “Such installations have the potential to detract from the special interest of most listed buildings, particularly for externally mounted air source heat pumps, as a result of their visual incongruity.  Care needs to be taken with the installation of the pump and associated kit; for example, there may be additional archaeological considerations in historic sites.  In certain cases, the physical installation works may cause unacceptable harm.”

Historic England has set out its position on what measures should and should not be considered acceptable on historic and listed buildings to make them more energy efficient and less reliant on fossil fuels.

It has produced a draft historic environment advice note* (HEAN) to provide clarity and to support consistent decision making among planning authorities.  The document is at consultation stage and views are being sought.

As well as generally approving heat pumps hidden solar panels – valley roofs and flat roofs preferred – it sets out its position on insulation. Loft insulation will generally be acceptable, unless sprayed. Insulation between, or under, floors will generally be acceptable. Internal wall insulation will be acceptable only in some cases. External wall insulation is unlikely to be acceptable.

Ian Morrison, Director of Policy and Evidence at Historic England, said: “The new Advice Note we are consulting on demonstrates how historic buildings can become more energy efficient and help to reduce carbon emissions in England. It’s not a question of ‘if’ change can happen, it’s a question of ‘how’, and this new advice will make it clearer for us all to ensure historic buildings are adapted appropriately to respond to the climate crisis. We welcome feedback on how the Advice Note will enable decision making to be more consistent.”

* Climate Change and Historic Building Adaptation: Historic England Advice Note (Public Consultation Version).  The consultation closes at 23.59 on Sunday 24th December 2023.

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