Planning Permission for Garden Buildings

There’d be nothing worse than constructing a beautiful, fully-functional garden building, only to be told that it must be pulled down or considerably altered and rectified because it contravenes planning laws. Yet, if you don’t apply for planning permission, this could actually happen.

If you are in any doubt of whether your proposed garden building will need planning permission, take a look at this article for basic information to save yourself any future headaches. In all cases it’s also best to double-check with your council’s local planning authority, as not all authorities comply with the same set of regulations.

Specifics of a Garden Building

In terms of planning laws, a garden building such as a summerhouse, garden shed or garden office (for domestic use) is classed as ‘ancillary building’. This basically means that the buildings are secondary in importance and use compared to the main dwelling of the house. If an ancillary building becomes a residence (for example, a log cabin becomes a granny annexe), then there are all sorts of implications regarding building control, planning permission and council tax charges. By ignoring the proper regulations you’ll be flouting the law.

Exceptional Cases

Given the size of the average garden in the UK, the most common smaller garden buildings such as sheds, greenhouses and summerhouses don’t require planning permission. However, this isn’t set in stone, as regulations can vary between district and borough councils. Local by-laws may apply, and in some cases there may be strict planning regulations for buildings and structures that exceed 10 cubic metres in volume. This is likely the case if you live within a Conservation Area, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Broads or a National Park. Listed buildings will also have restrictions in place, so that any buildings or structures on the land will be subject to planning permission if the proposed building is again over 10 cubic metres in volume.

When Applications are Always Required

There are times when you will most definitely have to apply for planning permission to build garden buildings within the boundaries of your property.

The first instance in which you’d have to apply for planning permission would be if over half of the land surrounding the “original house” was going to be covered by other buildings or new additions. It’s worth noting that the term ‘original house’ refers to the house as it was originally built. If the house was built prior to 1st July 1948 the term ‘original house’ means how the house stood on this date. So you must take into consideration any extensions that have been added since this date, even if they were made before you purchased your house.

The second instance is if you want to erect a garden building that would be nearer to a highway than the closest part of the original house. The term ‘highway’ can refer to a bridleway, path, public road or byway. However, the exception to this rule is if there would be a minimum of 20 metres between the new structure or building and the highway.

Another case in which you’d have to apply for planning permission was if you wanted to erect a structure or building that would be more than 4 metres high with an apex roof. If your proposed building has a flat roof, then anything above 3 metres will also require planning permission.

Domestic or Business?

If your new garden building is going to be used for any domestic or commercial purposes – for instance, as a commercial goods storage building, business parking, or a garden office from which you run your business – then you will definitely need to apply for planning permission. This is still the case even if the building is also going to be used in a ‘domestic’ non-business capacity. This applies to the most rudimentary garden buildings such as garden sheds, greenhouses and summerhouses. If there is any business-related use then you must declare your intentions and apply for planning permission, otherwise you may find yourself in a very difficult situation later on!

When a Garden Building Becomes an Extension

There are circumstances when an otherwise normal ancillary garden building will be treated as an extension, and therefore will require planning permission. If your new garden building will have a volume over 10 cubic metres and will be located within 5 metres of your home, then it will be treated as a house extension.

You should also consider that if you are considering an actual extension to your house, then it might affect your overall volume entitlement for your house. This is the case when an extension brings your newly extended house within 5 metres of any existing garden buildings, again effectively making the garden buildings into another extension in addition to your actual extension.

In all cases, as aforementioned always check with your local planning authority, unless you are absolutely certain that you won’t need planning permission. Most sheds, greenhouses, domestic storage buildings and small summerhouses are erected with no problems at all – especially if you notify your neighbours beforehand. A bit of good neighbourly conduct will also help to avoid disputes!