Do you need Planning Permission for a Garden Office?

The ‘Garden Office’ is becoming increasingly popular as more and more people are working from home. Planning permission for these structures is usually straight forward, and in some cases it’s unnecessary. Here’s what you need to know…

Can you build without planning permission?

Two key factors that determine if you can build without planning permission are the height of the building and how you are going to use the building.

How tall is your building?

The maximum heights that you can build garden offices without planning permission have been developed to protect the interests of neighbours from shading, loss of light etc.

Outbuildings are considered to be “permitted development” and not needing planning permission, if they meet the following restrictions:

  • No outbuilding on land forward of a wall forming the principal elevation of the house.
  • Outbuildings to be single storey with maximum eaves height of 2.5 metres and maximum overall height of four metres with a dual pitched roof or three metres for any other roof.
  • Maximum height of 2.5 metres if within two metres of a boundary of the curtilage (garden) of the house.
  • No verandas, balconies or raised platforms.
  • No more than half the area of land around the “original house” would be covered by additions or other buildings.

In National Parks, the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites the maximum area to be covered by buildings, enclosures, containers and pools more than 20 metres from house to be limited to 10 square metres.

On designated land buildings at the side of properties will require planning permission.

Within the curtilage of listed buildings any outbuilding will require planning permission.

How are you going to use it?

Permitted development rules allow “incidental” buildings such as sheds and summerhouses to be put up without planning permission (as long as they are the correct height/location etc). A garden office or a garden studio used for leisure or occasionally used when working at home may well be viewed as “incidental” and hopefully won’t needing planning permission. Whereas a garden office used for business five days a week and where clients visit the office is not be viewed as “incidental” by your local authority and they may want a planning application for it.

If you build an office without planning permission and the council later decides that it needs planning permission, they will ask you to make a retrospective planning application. It is within their power to refuse the planning permission and make you take the building down.

Are you worried about needing planning permission for your garden office?

Here are a few concerns that some people have about planning permission and why you don’t have to worry…

1. I am worried the neighbours will complain

It is a democratic right for all of us to be able to complain about a planning application and lots of us do. In fact, it is unusual to find a planning application that doesn’t generate a comment or complaint.

Some comments and complaints are based upon fear and lack of understanding rather than unkindness or unreasonableness. People can find it hard to visualise a building from two dimensional plans and others are frightened of change or having their privacy threatened.

Planning departments are used to dealing with complaints and they treat them with respect. But they also take your needs, as the applicant, and the merits of the building design very seriously.

If you are planning a garden building that’s:

  • well designed
  • built with good quality materials
  • is in a sensible position in your garden
  • isn’t too big for your garden
  • if your building is to be used as an office – your work/ business is quiet and unobtrusive

Then your planning department is unlikely to uphold a neighbour’s complaint about your proposed office.

But, if you want to build a large office right outside your neighbour’s windows or run a business that was noisy and had lots of visitors the planning department would rightly take your neighbour’s complaint seriously.

2. Securing garden office planning permission will take too long

In theory a planning application typically takes two months to process, however often it can be longer. It has to be worth waiting this long to get the best garden office or other building for your purposes and have all the paperwork in place in case you want to sell your house in a few years time.

During the short wait for planning permission you will have time to plan fixtures and fittings and assess what you might want to do with the rest of the garden when the office has been built.

If you don’t think you can wait for planning permission it’s possible that a garden office isn’t the right solution for you and that you need a short term rather than long term solution to your workspace problems.

3. I don’t think I’ll be lucky enough to get it

Planning permission doesn’t depend upon luck. It depends upon:

  • good quality design
  • well chosen building materials
  • understanding planning legislation

4. I haven’t got time to get involved with the council and the paperwork

It is better to get involved with the council and obtain the correct planning permission now, rather than getting involved with them at a later date if someone complains because you have built your garden building without planning permission. Avoiding planning enforcement is always advisable.

Related Content:

Looking for a Town Planner take a look at our blog When to Hire a Town Planner, which also has a download on Steps to Choosing a Town Planner.