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Is it possible to power our garden office with solar panels on its roof?

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Having worked from home throughout the pandemic, we are looking at building an office at the end of our garden. 

We would like to make it as eco-friendly as possible. Can we put solar panels on its roof, and would we need planning permission?

If we can, is it possible to power basic amenities such as lighting and laptops directly from the panels, without having to run mains electricity out to the shed office?

And there an efficient way to heat the outbuilding, without having to plug in an electric radiator?

Having solar panels installed is good for the environment, but can be a costly investment

Having solar panels installed is good for the environment, but can be a costly investment 

Grace Gausden, This is Money, replies: Powering your garden office with solar panels is definitely more environmentally friendly than using standard electricity.

However, it is an expensive investment, and should only be considered if you are sure you can afford them – and you’ll need to assess if the outlay risks proving a false economy.

The answers to your queries will depend on where you live, the sort of office you want to install, and how much sun you are likely to get. 

One of your questions was regarding planning permission, and fortunately most homes don’t need it to install solar panels.

However, if the building has a flat roof, or if you live in a conservation area, you will need to check with the local council before going ahead.

The roof will also need to be strong enough to hold the panels, and there needs to be enough space to house the inverter – the component that converts the direct current produced by your panels into ready-to-use alternating current. 

In your case, you will need to check that your shed office, of shoffice as they’ve been dubbed, has the capacity to hold the panels as, depending on its structure, it might not be capable. 

A very sturdy well-built garden office-type structure may be robust enough, a converted common or garden shed probably won’t. 

Energy supplier Ovo Energy suggests getting a qualified installer to check before making a decision on solar panels.

The supplier says that the best homes – or sheds if they can take them – to install solar panels on are those with south-facing roofs with a pitch of 30 to 40 degrees. 

It doesn’t recommend putting solar panels on a north-facing roof, but says an east or west-facing roof still works well – though homeowners will probably generate around 25 per cent less energy. 

You could make money from your surplus energy

Previously, homes with solar panels could take part in the Feed in Tariff scheme, where homeowners with solar panels got paid for surplus energy they produced.

However, this closed to new applicants in 2019, save for a few exceptions, and has been replaced with the Smart Export Guarantee. 

This now means licensed electricity suppliers must offer a tariff and make payment to small-scale low-carbon generators for electricity exported to the National Grid, providing certain criteria are met. 

If you were to have solar panels fitted, this would definitely be something worth signing up to, as it would help you make some money back from your investment. 

How much you make will depend on how much electricity you transport to the Grid, as well as your export tariff rates.  

You can choose from a number of electricity suppliers to pay the tariffs. Here is a full list to choose from. 

Air source heat pumps are one of the best ways to heat a shed or office and are eco-friendly

Air source heat pumps are one of the best ways to heat a shed or office and are eco-friendly 

With regards to heating the outbuilding, solar panels are able to heat water that is passed through a series of tubes mounted on the roof, which will then feed a single radiator with warmed water. 

However, solar panels will heat water best when you need it least, for example in the summer months.  

An air source heat pump could be a good alternative to look at, as it would provide both heating and cooling. 

The pumps would absorb heat from the air outside to heat your office and provide hot water, and they can still extract heat when air temperatures are as low as -15°C.

The pumps can also cut carbon emissions by up to 23.36 tonnes over 10 years: the equivalent of 30 return flights between Heathrow and Madrid, according to data from energy supplier EDF. 

Air source heat pumps work by extracting renewable heat from the environment.  

While they need electricity to run, the heat output is greater than the electricity input: making them an energy efficient method of heating your home. 

They are easy to install, but are best suited to homes with lots of outdoor space as they typically sit outside the home. 

If you don’t have this, it would be possible to install electrical mains and plug in a radiator to use as and when you need it. 

Shoffices have increased in popularity as more people work from home during the pandemic

Shoffices have increased in popularity as more people work from home during the pandemic

We asked insurance experts to answer your query about planning. 

Ryan Fulthorpe, home insurance expert at GoCompare, replies: The current guidance provided by Gov.uk says an outbuilding should be single storey, with a maximum eaves height of 2.5 metres with a maximum overall height of 4 metres with a dual-pitched roof. Anything more than that would require planning permission.  

In extreme circumstances, you could be forced to make changes or even remove the outbuilding if it is found not to comply with local planning laws.

This guidance also suggests there is no requirement in the UK for planning permission should you want solar panels. However, there are a number of restrictions which can be found at the Government’s Planning Portal website.

For example, panels can’t be installed above the highest part of the roof, excluding the chimney, and they can’t stick out more than 20cm from the roof.

The panels are supposed to be placed so as not to have too big of an impact on the building, architecturally or aesthetically. 

If you no longer have any use for your panels, or they’ve broken and you’re choosing not to replace them, you’re required to take them down in a timely manner.  

As with all home improvements, but particularly for electrical and heating solutions and solar panels, you should seek the advice of competent professionals to ensure that work carried out is of a suitable standard.  

Finally, as with any other home improvements that you may undertake, you should inform your insurer in advance, otherwise it could affect any insurance claims in the future.

A spokesperson for Uswitch replies: You generally don’t need planning consent for solar panels. However, if you live in a conservation area or a listed building you should check first.

Also, if your solar panels would be visible from the roadside of the property you made need to apply for planning permission.

It’s best to check with your local council planning officer if you’re not sure.

Grace Gausden, This is Money, adds:  While it would be possible to fit solar panels to your roof, this is a long-term investment.

It could also be expensive to install air source heat pumps, as they typically cost between £9,000 to £10,000.

However, both are more environmentally friendly options than having standard heating running to the shed office.

You should take your time to do some research into how feasible it would be for you, and whether you would get enough energy from the panels to power the office. 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Serravalle Designer Outlet unveils new state-of-the-art leisure facility (IT)

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McArthurGlen has officially launched the “Play Land”, a brand new 6,000m² leisure concept at Designer Outlet Serravalle. The €7m attraction introduces a new state-of-the-art experiential element to the centre that further enhances the shopping experience for guests of all ages. Part of the centre’s €40m investment programme, Play Land launches alongside six new stores that are home to renowned luxury and F&B brands, including Off WhiteValentinoZegna and Starbucks. The iconic names join recent international arrival Givenchy to further elevate the centre’s reputation as one of Europe’s premier luxury destinations. The enhancements have created around 100 new jobs and also delivered wider improvements to the centre’s hospitality offering, including to its VIP lounges, guest services, landscaping and car parks.

 

This latest investment signals McArthurGlen’s commitment to the region that welcomed it over 20 years ago. Situated in the heart of Alessandria, the centre was the first designer outlet to arrive in Italy in 2000, and today has more than 240 stores spread across over 50,000m² of GLA, making it the largest luxury outlet in Europe by retail space. 

 

“We firmly believe in the value of the physical retail experience and that has always been at the heart of McArthurGlen,” said Joan Jove, Co-CEO of McArthurGlen, addingTogether with our long-standing investor partners from the European Outlet Mall Fund, we are thrilled to bring this new experiential element to our customers at Serravalle and introduce a cutting-edge facility that can be of benefit to the whole community.”

 

Anchoring the facility is Lele’s Aqua Park, which is a brand new concept in the McArthurGlen portfolio. Featuring a bespoke design, the 3,500m² waterpark features a variety of activities, including slides, water cannons and a large waterfall, designed to maximise the fun for children and enhance the day-out experience for families. The Playground, inspired by the work of the famous Dutch artist M.C Escher, spans approximately 2,500m² and consists of platforms and hexagonal towers in a labyrinth of interconnected play spaces. The play village includes a structure inspired by the small villages set in the beautiful Piedmontese landscape, aiming to create a world in which children can immerse themselves in exploration and discovery, while at all times remaining inclusive for those with disabilities. Flora’s Baby park is a new service offered to families while they are shopping at the centre. It enables parents and guardians to leave their children to play among a range of adventure activities, including a small vertical maze, which are supervised and assisted at all times by experienced staff. Designed specifically for the whole family is the Picnic Area, which provides a welcoming space set up with comfortable tables and chairs. Guests can relax in this environment while taking advantage of the centre’s excellent mix of F&B operators. 

  

The investment enhances Serravalle Designer Outlet’s sustainability credentials with new green spaces, improved water consumption and solar panels, supporting McArthurGlen’s commitment to reducing its impact on the environment. A newly planted garden comprising perennial plants and flowers encircles the leisure complex, creating a protective green belt around the family area that connects to the centre’s surrounding landscape. An integrated irrigation system reuses the water from the swimming pool, while two photovoltaic systems installed on the roofs of the changing rooms and public toilets provide energy from renewable sources.  

 

McArthurGlen’s long-standing partner Hydea designed the masterplan for the Family Entertainment Area, with sector specialistsCarve creating the Playground and Baby Park, and Cemi designing the waterpark.

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British ex-pat, 67, is forced to DESTROY his Spanish home two months after his wife died from cancer

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A British ex-pat has been forced to knock down his £130,000 Spanish home two months after his wife died from cancer.

But the situation for 67-year-old Gurney Davey, from Suffolk, could get worse because he is facing six months in prison after a mayor illegally gave him planning permission for the house.

‘I was distraught at first, my blood pressure was sky high and then I lost my wife,’ Mr Davey said this week as he was demolishing his home near Tolox, Malaga.

Gurney Davey, 67, has been forced to knock down his £130,000 Spanish home two months after his wife died from cancer

Gurney Davey, 67, has been forced to knock down his £130,000 Spanish home two months after his wife died from cancer

Despite Friday’s demolition also costing him €1,600, he added that it had actually come as ‘some sort of relief’ having fought the legal battle since 2004, over the house he built in 2003. 

It was then that legal firm, Manzanares, informed him he would be getting a licence for an ‘almacen’ (or storeroom), which would allow him to build the house.

‘We thought we had done everything right. We got legal advice and went through a lawyer in order to get permission to build the home,’ Davey explained. 

But he was later told that his house was one of around 350 that were illegally given planning permission by the former mayor, Juan Vera, who was eventually handed a prison sentence of his own.

Mr Davey was told his house had to be demolished for himself to avoid a six-month prison sentence, with the news coming just after his wife, Diana, died from bowel cancer at the age of 71.

‘Diana fought breast cancer for six years before bowel cancer – I am sure the stress brought it on.’ 

‘But thankfully it is now over,’ he explained. ‘It has been going on for so long now, I’ve finally come to terms with what needs to be done. 

‘Having it demolished was actually a relief,’ he added.

As he still owns the land, he can still live on it – just not in a house.

Despite Friday's demolition also costing him €1,600, he added that it had actually come as 'some sort of relief' having fought the legal battle since 2004, over the house be built in 2003. Pictured: Mr Davey's home in Spain before it was demolished on Friday

Despite Friday’s demolition also costing him €1,600, he added that it had actually come as ‘some sort of relief’ having fought the legal battle since 2004, over the house be built in 2003. Pictured: Mr Davey’s home in Spain before it was demolished on Friday

Mr Davey was told that his house was one of around 350 that were illegally given planning permission by the former mayor, Juan Vera, who was eventually handed a prison sentence. Pictured: Mr Davey's home in Spain after it was demolished on Friday

Mr Davey was told that his house was one of around 350 that were illegally given planning permission by the former mayor, Juan Vera, who was eventually handed a prison sentence. Pictured: Mr Davey’s home in Spain after it was demolished on Friday

Now, the father-of-three is planning a minimalist life staying in a converted van, so that his five dogs still have the space to roam.

‘This land is my home, it is my life and these dogs are all I have left.’

Whether or not he still faces a prison sentence, is yet to be confirmed.

The ex-pat only found out about the potential six-month sentence when a court document was delivered to a neighbour’s house.

‘I went straight to Tolox town hall with it. They told me I shouldn’t have received it yet,’ he recalled. ‘They said they were going to be sending the notification to me once they had stamped it.’

He had never been told about the court case that followed on from a Guardia Civil denuncia for an ‘illegal build’, but Davey’s two-bed home should never have been built according to the Malaga court.

Now, the father-of-three is planning a minimalist life staying in a converted van, so that his five dogs (pictured) still have the space to roam

Now, the father-of-three is planning a minimalist life staying in a converted van, so that his five dogs (pictured) still have the space to roam

In 2016, and then again in 2017, Davey was ordered to knock down his house, but, in common with a neighbour, he waited for more details.

While his Spanish neighbour, Irene Millan, 29, did eventually hear from the court again, she was given six months to ‘legalise’ her property – an option Davey was never given.

However, his neighbour’s apparent good luck turned into a poisoned chalice.

Having spent €20,000 with the town hall to legalise the dwelling, the court finally refused to accept the new paperwork provided by the council.

Instead, demolition was ordered – which went ahead last week.

To add insult to injury Irene’s 54-year-old father, Manuel Millan, whose name was on the deeds, was also sentenced to six months jail and handed a fine of €6 a day for a year.

Whether or not he still faces a prison sentence, is yet to be confirmed. The ex-pat only found out about the potential six-month sentence when a court document was delivered to a neighbour's house

Whether or not he still faces a prison sentence, is yet to be confirmed. The ex-pat only found out about the potential six-month sentence when a court document was delivered to a neighbour’s house

As he still owns the land, he can still live on it - just not in a house. Pictured: Mr Davey, a former builder, uses a JCB digger to demolish his own home

As he still owns the land, he can still live on it – just not in a house. Pictured: Mr Davey, a former builder, uses a JCB digger to demolish his own home

The couple, originally from Suffolk in the UK, spent £130,000 building their property.

‘It came as a package – a plot with a new home on it.’

Davey admits he and his wife were perhaps naive to follow the advice of their lawyer.

The lawyer, from legal firm Manzanares, told them that planning permission would be applied for as an almacen – or ‘warehouse’.

Mr Davey (pictured) was told his house had to be demolished for himself to avoid a six-month prison sentence, with the news coming just after his wife, Diana, died from bowel cancer at the age of 71

Mr Davey (pictured) was told his house had to be demolished for himself to avoid a six-month prison sentence, with the news coming just after his wife, Diana, died from bowel cancer at the age of 71

This way it would come under the remit of Tolox town hall, which would give permission and later they could ‘legalise’ the property.

The language of one legal letter suggests this would be a mere formality, but the property never got legalised.

In fact, the Tolox mayor of the time, Juan Vera, has since been jailed and fined for his part in a scheme.

In most cases the mayor used the very same ‘lax’ procedure of applying to build an ‘almacen’ to try to keep the prying eyes of the Junta authorities away.

‘We thought that was the way things worked in Spain,’ said Davey, a retired builder. ‘We went to see a lawyer and got advice. It turns out that was not the smart thing to do.

‘Why would we deliberately try to build illegally? It makes no sense that we would sell up everything in the UK and risk it all.’

Mr Davey had earlier said that he was forced to ask the town hall for permission to knock his own property down.

‘I will do it myself. I will borrow a JCB from someone and flatten my home of the past 17 years. I will not let the town hall do it and charge me more money.’

It is not the first time British expats have had their homes demolished in Andalucia, with the Priors, in Almeria, the most famous victims.

They still live in the garage of their house today, over 10 years since the house was knocked down in Vera. 

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Two teenagers died after separate incidents in Dublin and Waterford

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Two teenagers have died after separate incidents in Dublin and Waterford on Wednesday.

Gardaí in Ballyfermot responded to a call at an equestrian centre at Tay Lane, Co Dublin, at about 2pm.

Dublin Fire Brigade and the National Ambulance Service attended the scene and provided medical assistance to a 15-year-old girl who was injured during an exercise event.

She was removed to Children’s Health Ireland at Crumlin, where she later died.

Gardaí said the coroner has been notified. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has also been notified and will carry out an examination on Thursday.

Gardaí said investigations are ongoing. A file will be prepared for the Coroner’s Court.

Separately, gardaí and emergency services attended the scene of a workplace accident in Dungarvan, Co Waterford on Wednesday afternoon.

A boy was pronounced dead at the scene.

The HSA has been notified and will carry out an investigation. A file will be prepared for the coroner.

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