Last week’s increase to the permitted development threshold for rooftop solar panels will act as “a shot in the arm” for the commercial sector, but demands for glare assessments are a slight concern, Strutt and Parker partner Keiran Crowe has said.

Speaking to Solar Power Portal, Crowe said that the announcement was “long overdue” but that taking formal planning out of the process would be a “definite help” for a commercial rooftop sector that has yet to meet the government’s ambitions.

The written ministerial statement was laid before Parliament last Wednesday and the new regulations will come into force from 15th April 2015, increasing the permitted development threshold to 1MW.

However installations between 50kW and 1MW will still require prior notification to the local planning authority, which will determine whether prior approval is required.

Applications to the LA must be accompanied by a written description of the proposal, plans indicating the site as well as the development, contact details of the developers and, most notably, any fee that may be required.

A schedule of fees has yet to be published but Crowe expects the costs to be inexpensive. “On this scale, if you base it purely on area of a building that needs to be looked at then they’re relatively inexpensive. We’re looking at somewhere between £80 and £400 for prior notification, so it’s not a hurdle,” he said.

Once submitted, the LA will consider the application on its design or external appearance with particular attention paid to the potential impact of glare on neighbouring land.

Neighbouring land owners will also have the chance to offer feedback to the LA regarding the proposed development with developers bound to display a notice at the site outlining the proposal for at least 21 days.

Crowe said that the need for a glare assessment was a slight concern, primarily because of a lack of clarity or guidelines as to what would be required from such an assessment.

“I think there needs to be a few more thoughts behind that from a local planning authority and a revision or clarification on exactly what you need and what’s required,” Crowe said, adding: “I think it’s possibly one of those things that’s been slipped in there as something that’s covering all the bases, but not enough analysis has been done onto the implications on the industry.”

But despite the concern, Crowe said that obtaining prior notification should not be considered as anything more than a formality and a “bolt on” that can be processed simultaneously alongside grid applications.

“Even asking for a prior notification period of 56 days, to be honest we don’t see that being a major hurdle,” he added.

Joel Tetlow, Managing Director at Future Energy Solutions Nw Ltd says “the removal of the formal planning process for systems up to 1MW will certainly give a ‘shot in the arm’ for the commercial roof sector by removing a level of bureaucracy which will simplify and speed up the whole process”.