Our Rights to Solar - Council Responses

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Our Rights to Solar - Council Responses

Postby Tracker » Fri Apr 23, 2010 8:27 am

.
I noticed a comment about a home owner complaining that their neighbour, should not do something, because it would cut off sunlight to their Solar Energy Collection. Their Council had a policy of "Right to sunlight", but that stopped when it came to the right of others to do what they wish.
I "HOPE" that the subject Council would take action against a vexatious attempt to deprive a neighbour of sunlight, whilst not stopping the right to build a compliant construction, that has the unfortunate problem for their neighbour.

I have also heard of Councils questioning physical PV installations.

Does anyone have practical experience with the bureaucracy and Solar Power (PV and HWS), or do we just shut up and say nothing in the hope that we are not "Noticed". . :?
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Re: Our Rights to Solar - Council Responses

Postby relaxedcamper » Fri Apr 23, 2010 4:13 pm

This just occured to me. If you perhaps had a property and wanted to 'protect' its appeal and deny your neighbours the opportunity of building beside you a 2 story house/flats/apartments etc, then you could be proactive and install PV and solar Hot water of the most 'appropriate' spot on your roof.

When the neighbour submits an application to build their 'mcmansion' that would create shading of your roof, you could argue that it would 'deny you the right to solar access' and you could also claim loss of income etc.

You could also continue with this idea and be able to get neighbours/council trees lopped once they blocked light access.

I don't know of any cases as yet where people have taken this approach, but it is an interesting concept.
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Re: Our Rights to Solar - Council Responses

Postby KarenS » Mon May 10, 2010 2:04 pm

relaxedcamper wrote:This just occured to me. If you perhaps had a property and wanted to 'protect' its appeal and deny your neighbours the opportunity of building beside you a 2 story house/flats/apartments etc, then you could be proactive and install PV and solar Hot water of the most 'appropriate' spot on your roof.

When the neighbour submits an application to build their 'mcmansion' that would create shading of your roof, you could argue that it would 'deny you the right to solar access' and you could also claim loss of income etc.

You could also continue with this idea and be able to get neighbours/council trees lopped once they blocked light access.

I don't know of any cases as yet where people have taken this approach, but it is an interesting concept.


My neighbours promised they would trim back or cut down completely a large tree which takes 2 hours off my panels in the morning for about 9 months of the year. They then changed their minds, after I had got quotes, and offered to go halves with them, on the cost, and no-one is interested.... I wonder why I bothered ... BTW, I have a VERY 'green' local council, and even got a small grant from them (available to anyone who is a ratepayer to this Council) when I installed my PV system.

Very close to my brother's house, in another suburb, a neighbour has been having the occasional drama for many years now, involving variously the Council, VCAT, and anyone else who might be able to help, with the result that after a 7 year battle, VCAT has approved a development which is 7 stories tall, over the back fence of the neighbour's property, and which JUST HAPPENS to be on the north side of his property.

Result - his solar panels, and his solar HWS, both of which are installed on the north-facing roof, will be completely shaded, 24/7/365, and will be effectively useless because of this development!!!! There is talk of looking (again) at the fine print included in the various contracts and requirements of the assorted grants which were received from various governments etc during the installation of the PV sytem and the HWS, but the whole thing has become another "solar nightmare".

So it looks like various governments, councils, etc are quite happy to help you to install PV systems, and solar HWS, but no-one is interested in ensuring that their dollars are going towards something which actually WORKS!!

And if your system did happen to work when it was installed, there is no guarantee that anyone is interested in keeping it working, if another party wants to do something which will bring the Council or government revenue, but prevent your system from functioning as intended into the future.
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Re: Our Rights to Solar - Council Responses

Postby franks » Mon May 10, 2010 2:59 pm

The bottom line, the greedy Council is looking for the extra in rates, will have bugger all obligation for your access to solar resource.
You will go to VCAT you will be hounded by the Developer and the Council, you will loose and have to pay costs.
The Law Stinks :(
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Re: Our Rights to Solar - Council Responses

Postby bpratt » Mon May 10, 2010 3:16 pm

franks wrote:You will go to VCAT you will be hounded by the Developer and the Council, you will loose and have to pay costs.
The Law Stinks :(


As they say there is no justice system, just a legal system that rewards those with the biggest cheque book. :evil:
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Re: Our Rights to Solar - Council Responses

Postby relaxedcamper » Mon May 10, 2010 3:36 pm

I think that there will be rules and regulations that will control how our neighbors building will effect our PV and SHW. Below in a cut paste and the link that shows what Western Australia are doing about it.


http://sedonewsbyemail.vivid-design.com.au/DisplayNews.asp?id=473

[color=#0080FF]Protection of solar access now included in Residential Design Codes


Ensuring that West Australians design and build more energy efficient homes is one of the corner-stones of the Residential Design Codes. These R-Codes are updated each year and the most recent review has seen the inclusion of protection for solar access.

Whether it’s photovoltaic panels for generating electricity or solar panels for hot water systems, their rooftop location and their access to unhindered sunlight is closely linked to their level of effectiveness.

Up until the new Residential Design Codes (R-codes) were released last year, visibility from the street and the neighbours (and hence the aesthetics of these panels) often overrode the need to position them for optimum sun exposure. In addition, there was no protection awarded to vital sun access, thus allowing the construction of adjoining buildings that overshadowed solar panels.

While home orientation for passive solar design benefits has been included in the R-Codes for some time, many local councils, shires and members of the design and building community were faced with the dilemma of not being able to protect solar access. Also there was not always the freedom to place solar panels in the best possible position. In fact, there have been cases where developers and neighbours were able to hinder the sustainable outcomes of a dwelling using the reason of aesthetics as a case for stopping energy-conscious homeowners from selecting the best position for their solar panels.

Now, with a new clause in the R-Codes (Design for Climate Requirements), aesthetics is no longer a consideration in the selection of solar panel location. And, by increasing the importance and right to solar access, the new clause stipulates that a new development must be designed to protect solar access so that it should not overshadow:
• Outdoor living areas
• Major openings to habitable rooms
• Solar collectors
• Balconies or verandahs

While high-density urban living often makes some overshadowing unavoidable, the new codes provide strict guidelines as to the percentage of shadowing that is allowable.

These amendments to the R-Codes acknowledge and elevate the importance of solar access in residential housing. Anyone planning a new home or living next to a dwelling where overshadowing may be compromised should consult the new R-Codes or contact their local council or shire. Copies of the R-Codes are available through the WA Planning Commission and online at http://www.wapc.wa.gov.au
[/color]
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Re: Our Rights to Solar - Council Responses

Postby Inspector » Mon May 10, 2010 10:04 pm

Seems like Karen's (and her brother's) councils need to take a leaf out of WA council's regulations book :)

bpratt hit it right on the money - unfortunately if Karen's brother was to take the builder/council to court over the matter, he'd more than likely lose the battle and be broke at the end of it... Karen, you could suggest he invoice the builder each month for loss of generation :) I don't know if the Clean Energy Council would be able to help (notifying them may mean REC's would need to be repaid as the system would not generate optimally for the anticipated 15 years!)

It's a shame in this day and age, that the councils don't look after us and the environment alot better. Like bpratt mentioned, it's all about who has the fattest cheque book...

This is the reason why I decided to have my panels split over two separate locations - I couldn't just rely on my neighbour's "intention" to remove 1 dead and 1 almost dead palm trees any time soon. If I was to use the preferred location for all my panels (garage roof), then every day the trunks are left there, they would cost me several hours loss of generation output. It seems you can't rely on anyone these days.
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Re: Our Rights to Solar - Council Responses

Postby shaded system » Tue May 11, 2010 6:09 pm

I am also writing to offer a word of caution to people contemplating the installation of solar electric panels or solar hot water systems in relation to the right to sunlight. My recent experience concerning a Development Application (DA 94/2010) with Hornsby Concil suggests that little protection exists to prevent shadowing by adjacent buildings on such solar collectors.

On the one hand Hornsby council actively promotes the move towards a Sustainable Future as outlined in its Sustainable Energy Strategy 2006 – 2010. As part of this strategy council actively encourages residents within its shire to install solar hot water systems, solar electric panels and other solar collectors.
Having attended council workshops and read up on literature provided by councils sustainability team, I applied for and recieved a Federal government grant allowing me to invest in a 1.5KW grid connect solar system.
When the DA in question was submitted by an adjoining property, I requested that council consider the impact on my collectors and on my homes passive solar design features when making their assessment of the DA. I also requested consideration be given to solar access to my private open space that I use for entertaining. Unfortunately it appears that the councils DA assessment team makes no concessions on either the impact on solar collectors or on passive solar design features or general solar access of dwellings impacted by DAs from adjacent properties.
Until state laws are pulled into line with the current trend to "go solar" anyone investing in these expensive solutions is entirely vulnerable to possible shadowing from adjacent properties. In my case, should the building proceed based on the approved DA, I will be left with a system suffering degraded performance during the winter months. This combind with the impact on the existing passive solar design of my dwelling sets me back with respect to my goal of achieving a lower carbon footprint.
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Re: Our Rights to Solar - Council Responses

Postby Inspector » Wed May 12, 2010 7:54 pm

Perhaps I posted it in another thread, but I thought I read in my local council's LDCP or other (large) document that there needs to be X amount of solar access for neighbouring properties when considering submitting DA plans...


Below is relevant sections cut&pasted from a couple of Bankstown Council's documents (feel free to delete if I break copyright infringement, although I could find no reference to copyright restrictions in the documents themselves)...

Particularly relevant parts have been highlighted...


"Bankstown Local Environmental Plan 2001"...

23 Development adjacent to residential zones

In determining a development application that relates to land in a zone other than Zone 2 (a) or 2 (b) adjoining land in Zone 2 (a) or 2 (b), the consent authority must take into consideration the following matters:
(a) whether any proposed building is compatible with the height, scale, siting and character of existing residential development within the adjoining residential zone,
(b) whether any goods, plant, equipment and other material used in carrying out the proposed development will be stored or suitably screened from residential development,
(c) whether the proposed development will maintain reasonable solar access to residential development between the hours of 9 am and 3 pm during the winter solstice,
(d) whether noise generation from fixed sources or motor vehicles associated with the proposed development will be effectively insulated or otherwise minimised,
(e) whether the proposed development will otherwise cause nuisance to residents, by way of hours of operation, traffic movement, parking, headlight glare, security lighting, fumes, gases, smoke, dust or odours, or the like,
(f) whether any windows or balconies facing residential areas will be treated to avoid overlooking of private yard space or windows in residences.



and "Bankstown Development Control Plan 2005"...

SECTION 7–ACCESS TO SUNLIGHT
Objectives
The objectives are:
(a) to maximise the benefits of passive solar design
and natural ventilation;
(b) to minimise the degree of overshadowing on
neighbouring properties; and
(c) to incorporate energy efficiency in the design,
construction, and use of buildings.
Performance criteria
The performance criteria to achieve the objectives are:
(a) the design and siting of a building should maximise
solar access to the north–facing windows of a living
area, and to the private open space of a dwelling;
(b) a development should minimise the overshadowing
of neighbouring properties and public open spaces;
and
(c) a development should explore innovative
technologies and design approaches to maximise
natural ventilation, insulation, solar orientation, and
energy efficiency.
Development controls
The development controls to achieve the objectives and
performance criteria are:
Access to sunlight
7.1 The windows to at least one living area in a
proposed dwelling must receive at least 3 hours of
sunlight between 9am and 5pm on 21 June.
7.2 Despite clause 7.1, a minimum 70% of dwellings in
a residential flat building must receive at least 3
hours of sunlight to the windows of at least one
living area between 9am and 5pm on 21 June.
Bankstown City Council
Bankstown Development Control Plan 2005–Part D2 34
December 2005
7.3 The windows to at least one living area in a
dwelling that adjoins a development must receive at
least 3 hours of sunlight between 9am and 5pm on
21 June.
Where this requirement cannot be met, the
development must not result with additional
overshadowing on the affected living area of the
dwelling.
7.4 A minimum 50% of the required private open space
for:
(a) each proposed dwelling on an allotment;
and
(b) each dwelling on an adjoining allotment,
must receive at least 3 hours of sunlight
between 9am and 5pm at the equinox.
Where this standard cannot be met for a dwelling
on an adjoining allotment, the development must
not result with additional overshadowing on the
affected private open space.
7.5 A development should avoid overshadowing any
existing solar hot water system, photovoltaic panel,
or other solar collector on an allotment and
neighbouring properties.


Now it's just a matter of the council documents conforming to existing Australian Standards by using the word "shall" (making it mandatory), rather than the unenforcable and arguable word "should".
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Re: Our Rights to Solar - Council Responses

Postby KarenS » Wed May 12, 2010 10:13 pm

Thanks, guys! My house faces north, the street slopes down south to north, and it is HIGHLY unlikely that I will ever be overshadowed, but I don't have much north-facing roof, and the neighbour's tree was there first. it's just that said they didn't want it anyway, and were going to chop it down, and then changed what passes for their minds.
However, hope may be at hand - the electricity company have, last week, come down the street and massacred many trees which are in line with the high-tension wires at the top of our power poles. (There is a substation at the end of the street, & we have very tall poles, with 3 lots of stuff - HT wires up the very top, normal power distribution wires in the middle, and Optus cable below that - power outages have decreased dramatically since the Optus cable went in a while back - the possums use that now, not the normal power lines, so we get crispy fried possum on the nature strip very rarely, instead of quite often! Better for the possums too, LOL). The tree in question is a type of conifer, which apparently doesn't take kindly to random hacking and pruning, at an odd time of the year for pruning, and will probably become unwell & die because of that anyway.

The other problem concerns a neighbour (about 6 houses away) of my brother, not my brother himself. The solar stuff on the neighbour's roof has been there for some time, and his objections to the development also included having his back yard overlooked, as well as having his panels and HWS shaded. Other people also objected to being overlooked, and also to what is thought to be over-development of the site. This whole thing is very odd, as the council in question is usually very good, and many people were extremely surprised when the development was given the go-ahead. The VCAT result was not unexpected - ATM they seem to favour developers no matter what - probably just doing what J Madden Esq. tells them .....

What the 'victims' are going to do now, I don't know - I believe they are investigating to see if there are other avenues or options available to them.
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