Solar panels on caravans – the legal considerations for park owners
Whether you own a residential or holiday park, the caravan owners on your site may want to install solar panels to provide an alternative energy supply. Should they seek your permission before going ahead? We look at the practical and legal considerations for park businesses.
Solar panels have become an increasingly popular addition to both holiday caravans and residential park homes. These offer owners an alternative power supply, helping reduce energy costs as well as being a more environmentally friendly solution.
As a park business, however, you may be wondering whether installation works should be subject to your permission and if you have any legal basis for refusing permission or imposing certain conditions.
While there are no specific laws prohibiting this, it’s important to know what statutory requirements may be applicable to solar panel installation. In addition, your legal agreements with caravan owners may provide some options for dealing with any issues that arise.
Our Parks team looks at six key legal considerations for the retrofitting of solar panels on caravans at your parks site.
1. Is there a need for planning permission or Building Regulations consent?
Planning permission or building regulations consent may apply to the fitting of solar panels. This will depend on the approach of the local authority and considerations about the construction and installation of the holiday caravan or park home.
It's advisable to check your local authority's stance before any work is carried out, or you may ask the caravan owner to do so.
2. Does the Site Licence impose conditions on solar panel installations?
The Site Licence will include conditions relating to the layout and size of the park, as well as other areas such as health and safety. You should review this to check for any relevant criteria; for example, conditions specifying minimum caravan spacing may need to be considered if the solar panels will extend beyond the unit.
3. Do caravan owners need to request permission?
Your agreement with the caravan owners using your site will cover when your permission is required for certain activities.
For both holiday and residential parks, industry model agreements include terms on complying with statutory requirements, such as planning permission, site licensing and building regulations, as well as stipulating caravan owners must insure their caravan.
As a park owner, this gives you scope to confirm these terms have been met before any work is undertaken.
Alongside this, the terms in your agreements may be used to refuse permission for the fitting of solar panels on caravans or park homes, or grant permission subject to certain conditions.
• the model licence agreement for a holiday caravan pitch prohibits an extension to a caravan, which may cover the installation of solar panels.
• the model holiday park rules also require written permission to add any structures around the caravan, so you could argue that the panel array and fittings form a structure.
• for residential parks, there are similar terms in the Written Statement that may be applicable to the installation of solar panels. This includes the requirement for the homeowner to obtain written consent for the erection of any structures or building work.
If the caravan owner challenges your decision, it will be up to a judge to agree or disagree with the interpretation of your licence agreement or park rules.
4. Can park owners refuse permission for solar panel installations?
Withholding permission or imposing conditions is only likely to be considered a reasonable step if your concerns are supported by evidence and have not been addressed by the caravan owner.
However, an industry model agreement is likely to allow you to ensure there is no potential breach of the law or insurance arrangements before any works are undertaken by caravan owners. This includes confirming:
• the local authority's position on planning permission, building regulations and site licensing conditions.
• the caravan or park home will continue to comply with the statutory definition of a caravan, including that it can still be moved.
• the caravan owner has notified their insurers and complied with any requirements.
If your agreement terms require permission for any works, you may also want to consider:
• the visual impact of the panels or any impact of ground-mounted panels on wildlife (a report from an experienced solar contractor or a wildlife consultant could address these issues).
• whether additional works to the caravan could invalidate any current third-party warranty (this is something you may wish to highlight to the caravan owner even if permission is not required).
• whether the weight of the works will affect the caravan, the pitch and the base.
5. What if you have concerns about the safety of solar panel installations?
Always discuss any urgent or serious risks with your health and safety advisers, or with relevant public authorities.
For other concerns, you should talk to the caravan owner in the first place. But if you're unable to resolve these, it’s always advisable to seek legal guidance on your options, as you may be able to deal with the issue as a breach of agreement or of the park rules.
6. Should you have a policy or standard response for the installation of solar panels?
It's useful to have a consistent policy or response as a starting point for recurring requests.
Key points to cover in your policy include: your support for green energy solutions, an overview of the legal considerations (in plain English), suggested contacts (such as at the local authority), a summary of your considerations when granting permission for works, and a reminder about the importance of using trusted contractors.
What you should do next
This is an overview of the key legal and practical matters when dealing with solar panel retrofits on caravans. But there may be other relevant considerations depending on the particular circumstances of the park. Some questions for the industry may be clarified by court or tribunal decisions.
For these reasons, it’s important to take legal advice if you’re unable to resolve a disagreement with a caravan owner. Our specialist Parks team can help with any questions regarding the installation of solar panels or other alterations to caravans or park homes on your site.
Contact us for further support and bespoke guidance on your situation.
Our specialist Parks team truly understands the world you operate in, having been at the cutting edge of park law for over 65 years. We offer industry-specific guidance across all areas of your business – helping you stay ahead of problems, deal with day-to-day issues and make the most of commercial opportunities.