• St Aldate’s Chambers, Oxford

    Oxford City Council’s aim was to set an example in sustainability by installing a solar panel array on the roof of its city centre offices. However, given the busy central location and planning restrictions, this was not a straight-forward installation.

    A busy central Oxford location


Challenge #1 – Limited accessibility: The Council offices were located in the heart of Oxford, adjacent to the main city centre terminus bus stops, making it a very busy and congested location. In addition, a low archway restricted access to the rear of building where the bulk of the installation would take place.

Challenge #2 – Planning approval needed: Local planning rules stipulated that any building in the line of sight from Carfax Tower should blend in with the surroundings. Furthermore, although solar panels do not usually require prior planning approval, the Council offices happened to be located in a Central Protected Area, hence detailed plans had to be submitted to the Council Planning Office.

Challenge #3 – Retrofit to ‘busy’ roof: The four-storey high Council office block had a high energy output requirement given its relatively modest roof footprint. The limited roof space available was further compromised by numerous existing structures such as ventilation plant, leaving few ‘uninterrupted’ areas.


Solution #1 – Pinpoint planning: Darke & Taylor’s (D&T) planning had to be both inch-perfect and accurate to the nearest quarter of an hour. The height of the lorry loads had to be precisely measured to ensure they would fit under the low archway, with any deliveries arranged pre-8 am so as not to disrupt public transport links.

Solution #2 – Bespoke everything!: To ensure an elegant solution which minimised reflected glare, D&T commissioned the manufacturer to powder coat everything black. Also, the pitch of the installation was carefully calibrated so as to meet planning approval. D&T always utilises a separate project management and installation team on any job. The team are all certified MCS installers, which is a requirement for reclaiming the generation feed-in tariff.

Solution #3 – Imaginative placement: There were no grid issues, so D&T was able to maximise the output by fitting as many panels as feasible to generate 10% of the building’s electricity needs. However, the installation had to be very carefully andimaginatively planned to make it commercially viable.


“Darke & Taylor were very effective in managing the project, working closely with the team at the City Council to ensure that disruption was kept to a minimum and that public safety was paramount.”

Dr Paul Spencer, Energy & Carbon Manager, Oxford City Council

Technical overview

D&T won the contract to design, install and commission a retrofit 20 kilowatt peak solar photovoltaic system to the roof of Oxford City Council’s offices in central Oxford.

Design responsibilities undertaken by our in-house team included material specification, modelling solar array performance, calculating financial payback, projecting electricity generation and CO2 savings. Our qualified PV installers mounted the system on the roof, completed all DC and AC cabling and connections before commissioning the system in line with the specialist requirements and standards in place for this type of work.

Project details

CLIENTOxford City Council

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