Case law: Court overturns planning permission for house extension because it stopped sunlight reaching neighbour’s solar panels
Householders and others applying for planning permission for developments that may block or reduce the amount of sunlight reaching solar panels on neighbouring property should consider whether their neighbour could apply to have planning permission overturned.
This update was published in Legal Alert - October 2019
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A householder installed solar panels on a south-west facing wall of his home. These generated around 11Kw of electricity on a sunny day. The local authority granted planning permission to a neighbour to build an extension.
However, the development would stop sunlight from reaching the panels and significantly reduce the amount of electricity generated. The householder took the local authority to court applying for the planning permission to be revoked.
Planning laws require the local authority to take into account ‘material considerations’ when deciding whether to grant planning permission. In order to be a material consideration, a matter had to involve a public interest that required protection through the planning process.
The council argued that the fact the extension would reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the panels only affected private interests, and could not therefore be a material consideration.
The High Court disagreed. It referred to planning laws and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which says development plans should include policies that contribute to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change.
The court said that ‘… the essential point is that both the local plan and, more recently and much more particularly, the NPPF recognise the positive contribution that can be made to climate change by even small-scale renewable energy schemes’.
It ruled that the question of whether the planning decision in this case reduced the effect of activities aimed at mitigating climate change was, therefore, a matter of public interest and a material consideration – and overturned the planning permission.
- Householders and others applying for planning permission for developments that may block or reduce the amount of sunlight reaching solar panels on neighbouring property should consider whether this can then have the planning permission overturned.
Case ref: William Ellis McLennan v Medway Council and Ken Kennedy  EWHC 1738
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