THE boss of a North-East renewable energy company has called upon the Government to stop councils telling homeowners to apply for unnecessary planning permission for solar power schemes.

Following revelations from David Hunt, a director with Darlington-based Eco Environments, Shadow energy and climate change minister Huw Irranca-Davies is set to write to his government counterparts, urging them to take steps to ensure councils are not giving misleading advice.

Planning rules state that Building Regulations applications are not needed if the homeowner uses a contractor approved under the government's Competent Person Scheme. However, Mr Hunt claims a number of councils are going against the Governments guidance by wrongly telling people they require planning permission or Building Regulations approval which costs £77.

Mr Hunt said that his company had received a number of reports from customers that Eden district council in Cumbria was insisting households apply for Building Regulations approval prior to installing panels. It had also served notice on several homeowners who had already fitted them. Mr Hunt fears the problem may be widespread. "The Governments rules are clear. Even in a conservation area, planning should be permitted and Building Regulations should not be necessary as long as the homeowner notifies the local authority and uses accredited installers.

"The Government needs to make it absolutely clear to local authorities everywhere that they have a duty to adhere to these rules rather than standing in the way of progress.

"The majority of councils do comply, but a small number seem hell bent on causing as many problems as possible. By doing so, they are discouraging people from pursuing renewable energy solutions for their homes and cocking a snook at the Governments environmental agenda.

"Eden is the only council we've had problems with, (but) I know other installers in other parts of the country have been told they need planning permission, which you haven't needed since 2008."

Cathy Debenham, the founder of renewable energy body You Gen, said: "Councils lost an important revenue stream when they were told that they should no longer require planning permission for solar PV schemes.

"By trying to persuade homeowners into believing they do need permission, or at the very least Building Regulations approval, maybe they are attempting to cling on to some kind of ongoing income.

"What is the point of Government making laws if councils are going to ignore them. Any council which is pursuing such an agenda deserves to be held to account as their actions fly completely in the face of the Government's policy of encouraging homeowners and businesses to embrace renewable energy solutions wherever possible."