Pool Houses and Swimming Pool Shelters

It is an unfortunate fact that British weather is just not ideal for year long enjoyment of an outdoor swimming pool. Even if the pool is heated, you won’t be able to get out at certain times of the year without enduring icy, sub-zero temperatures!

Continuously erecting a gazebo during warmer periods can prove laborious, and often ineffective when trying to keep the pool clean from debris. The solution to this problem is to construct a permanent swimming pool shelter.

Swimming Pool Shelter Safety

The most basic form of swimming pool shelter is pool cover. These are literally strong covers that are either manually or mechanically pulled across the pool, and are sometimes durable enough to stand on.

They not only keep debris such as leaves and dirt out of the pool (thus reducing the amount of chemicals needed), but also provide an external safety barrier, particularly where small children and animals are concerned. However you should note that once inside the shelter, children in particular would require additional safety barriers to prevent them from entering the pool if unsupervised.

As there are no specific health and safety regulations relating to swimming pools in the UK, there is a considerably broader selection of companies that provide adequate pool shelters who tend to be based on the Continent. Owing to its warmer climate, popularity with holidaymaker’s and new safety regulations, France in particular seems to be home to a large number of good quality pool shelter manufacturers.

The French have recognised the need for safety around the pool and pool shelters, or ‘abris’ as they are commonly known in France, are an ideal solution. If you are thinking of purchasing and installing an ‘abri’ from France, look out for the certified Safety Standard code ‘NFP90-309’ as an assurance for manufacturing quality.

Pool Shelter Design

From a structural viewpoint, an abri is basically an aluminium frame and toughened Perspex or glass, constructed around the pool similar to a conservatory. An abri will commonly have a rolling mechanism to open it up fully during the hotter summer months. When choosing a pool shelter, it’s important to make sure that the Perspex is UV-resistant, as this not only stops the Perspex discolouring, but also stops the UV rays degrading any pool chemicals.

As with conservatories, it is more common to hire specialists to install the structure, as the rolling mechanisms, fixtures and fittings can be intricate and complex. An abri can be installed as a freestanding structure around the pool, or incorporated as part of a house’s architecture (as an extension) if the pool is located close to the house.

However, from an aesthetic point of view, a pool shelter can look starkly modern and utilitarian. You may want to seriously consider the design of your swimming pool shelter – a modern glass and aluminium structure could look completely out of place against original Georgian or Victorian architecture.

If your house is listed, or you live in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (including the Broads), a National Park, or Conservation Area, you will most likely need to apply for planning permission if looking to construct a building around your swimming pool with a volume of more than 10 cubic metres.

Pool Houses & Pool Cabanas

You may also be considering a functional space alongside your pool, such as a pool house, or pool cabana. The most basic pool house can resemble a larger version of a garden shed, log cabin, and is usually used as an area to store pool equipment or as a changing area. In some cases a pool house can double as a sauna or spa.

If you are looking for speedy construction, a range of buildings to choose from, and are trying to keep costs down, there is also a huge array of pre-fabricated or self-build pool house/cabana designs on the market. This is good news if you are looking to find a building in keeping with the architectural design of your house.

The most common pool cabana material is timber – not surprising, as it is lighter, cheaper and easier to install than brick or stone. These pool houses or pool cabanas can often be built directly onto paving slabs or cinder blocks as foundations. However, if your pool house is sited on uneven ground, you may need to look into installing concrete footings to provide a level grounding for the structure. As with any other garden outbuilding, a pool house built from brick will require deeper foundations.

General Planning Permission Regulations

Swimming pools, pool houses/cabanas and shelters may come under the category of [ancillary garden] outbuildings whose “purpose [is] incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling house”. However, the government’s planning portal provides the following guidelines for outbuilding structures:

  • You want to put up a building or structure which would be nearer to any highway than the nearest part of the “original house”, unless there would be at least 20 metres between the new building and any highway. The term “highway” includes public roads, footpaths, bridleways and byways.
  • More than half the area of land around the “original house” would be covered by additions or other buildings
  • The building or structure is not to be used for domestic purposes and is to be used instead, for example, for parking a commercial vehicle, running a business or for storing goods in connection with a business
  • You want to put up a building or structure which is more than 3 metres high, or more than 4 metres high if it has a ridged roof. (Measure from the highest ground next to it.)
  • If your house is a listed building, and you want to put up a building or structure with a volume of more than 10 cubic metres

When considering whether your pool house or swimming pool shelter will need planning permission, you should always check with your local planning authority, as regulations may vary.