Planning Permission for Garden Buildings in UK: A Complete Guide


The appeal of garden buildings in the UK has grown significantly in recent times. As awareness of their benefits increases, so does the variety of options available. However, it is not always apparent whether these buildings require planning permission. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of UK planning regulations for garden buildings.

garden building rules in uk

Location matters

Approximately 2% of England is made up of Conservation Areas. These areas protect special architecture and places of historic interest. Special planning controls apply in these areas to protect their architectural and historic elements. If you want to build a garden shed in a conservation area, you will usually need planning permission. You can check here to see if you live in a conservation area.

There are also several other protected areas, such as National Parks and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. You can find out more about these and whether your home is in one of them here.

Permitted development: No planning application is needed

Subject to certain restrictions, homeowners in England can add buildings to their homes to increase their functionality and appeal without obtaining planning permission (different regulations apply in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales). There are separate regulations for extensions, alterations to roofs, porches, driveways, and buildings.

Buildings in this context include garden sheds, chicken coops, garages, decking, and storage buildings. For a building to be exempt from planning permission, it and the main building must meet certain requirements:

  • The main building (dwelling house) cannot have been created using permitted development rights for change of use. This is the case if the dwelling house was previously a shop or a series of other commercial buildings.
  • The dwelling house must not be a listed building.
  • Any outbuildings (including detached garages, garden sheds and decking) must not cover more than 50% of the total area of the site around the dwelling house.
  • No buildings are permitted between the house and the highway without planning permission. Any outbuildings must be built either next to or behind the dwelling house, and no part of the outbuilding can be closer to the highway than the dwelling house.
  • The building cannot be more than one storey.
  • The maximum height of a building with a double pitched roof is 4 metres, or 2.5 metres if it is within 2 metres of the curtilage boundary. For all other buildings, the maximum height is 3 metres. Height is measured from the ground to the highest point of the building.
  • The eaves (where the roof meets the outside wall) must not be higher than 2.5 metres.
  • Any decking must be no higher than 0.3 metres.

There are separate regulations for buildings that would be built in a World Heritage Site, National Park, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or the Broads. The local planning authority can extend, restrict, or remove permitted development rights. It is therefore essential that you consult the local planning authority about your development.

How to apply for planning permission?

If your garden shed is not permitted development, you will need to apply for planning permission through your local planning authority. This can be either full planning permission (based on a detailed proposal) or outline planning permission (based on general outlines).

Contact your local council for an initial discussion about your project. They will be able to advise you on the application process and what type of planning permission you should apply for. If you buy a log cabin from summerhoue24, we will provide you with plans for the building itself. You will also need to draw up plans for the placement of the building on the land around your main house for your planning application.

Once you have submitted your planning application, it will take about eight weeks for the Council to decide on your application. The maximum time limit is 13 weeks. Planning applications cost between £200 and £460, depending on the scale of the project. Your local council will inform you of the cost of your project.

What to do if you have built a garden building without permission?

permission for building

If you or the previous homeowner have built an extension or an outbuilding without permission, you could be issued with an enforcement notice by the local council if permission was required. You can avoid this by obtaining a Certificate of Lawfulness or by submitting a retrospective planning application.

The Certificate of Lawfulness gives immunity from planning enforcement for unauthorized residential development if it has been in place for four years. In England, this four-year time limit has recently been extended to ten years and the changes became law in October 2023. However, as of March 2024, the legislation is not yet in effect and there is no timetable.

The four or ten years do not apply to the building, but to its use. You will need to prove that you have been using it in the same way for that period, for example as a home office or workshop. A Certificate of Lawfulness cannot be obtained in some cases, for example if you have been working on a listed building or if the unauthorized activity has resulted in a criminal offence.

If you do not meet the requirements for a Certificate of Lawfulness, you should make a retrospective planning application.

Rules for Water, electricity, and heating

You do not normally need planning permission to supply electricity to a garden shed. The installation should be carried out by a professional to prevent any harm during or after the installation. However, if your garden shed requires plumbing or heating, you may need to get permission, even if the shed itself is permitted development.

Often, using an installer who is registered with the Competent Person Scheme means that you do not need to get planning permission. Such projects can include the installation of plumbing, radiators, and fireplaces. Some of our garden saunas can be fitted with a real wood burning stove, and you should check that you can install one before ordering a sauna.

Both electricity and water can usually be supplied from the main house. If you require a new water connection, you will need to contact your local water company.

Rules for garden room as a home or holiday rental

Permitted development rights only apply if you are improving or extending your existing home – for example, by building a shed to store your tools or host garden parties. Government guidance clarifies that the garden shed must have a “purpose ancillary to the enjoyment of the house”, which cannot be a normal residential use. Therefore, you would need planning permission if you wanted to build a garden shed with a bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen.

Similarly, if you already have a shed in your garden, and you start living in it or use it as a holiday home, you will be changing the use of the building, which requires planning permission. However, if you have planning permission to use your garden shed for residential purposes, you may be able to let it out on a short-term basis. From summer 2024, homeowners will be able to let their sole home for up to 90 days a year without planning permission for a holiday let.

Another possible exemption is the 28-day rule, although this will not apply in most cases. It allows a site to be used for purposes outside the general planning permission without having to apply for additional planning permission for 28 days a year. For example, a farmer can hold car boot sales, festivals, or weddings on their property, or allow outdoor camping. However, this does not apply to residential areas and caravan sites.

Our large log cabins are perfect for holiday lets and even small family homes. If you want to build one of our cabins (or any other type of house) on an empty plot of land, you will need planning permission. Building a new home in the countryside is particularly attractive, but be aware that agricultural land without planning permission requires numerous reports and surveys to assess the impact of the development. If you are planning such a development, consult a professional about the type of building and the area where you want to build before you buy a plot.

Talk to your neighbours

Whatever you are planning to build in your garden, talk to your neighbours first. They may not be able to object to your plans if you have planning permission or are building a permitted development, but considering the impact of your project on them can prevent future problems. Also, if your holiday home causes a nuisance to your neighbours, they could take legal action against you. To avoid any negative impact on your holiday rental business, talk to your neighbours as early as possible.

1. What is the 4-year rule for outbuildings?

The 4-year rule refers to gaining immunity from enforcement for an unauthorized outbuilding if it has been in continuous use for four years without any planning enforcement action taken. In England, there’s a recent extension to ten years, but this is specifically for residential conversions, not for outbuildings.

2. What are the planning rules for decking?

Decking and other raised platforms can be constructed without planning permission provided they are no higher than 30cm above the ground and together with other extensions and outbuildings, do not cover more than 50% of the garden area.

3. What is the 28-day rule for planning?

The 28-day rule allows land to be used for any purpose for up to 28 days in a calendar year without obtaining planning permission. However, this rule does not typically apply to changing the use of residential buildings or land for residential purposes.

4. How big can a garden room be without planning permission in Scotland?

In Scotland, the rules can differ from those in England. Generally, a garden room or outbuilding can be up to 30 square metres in floor area. If it’s more than 4 metres from the main house, it can be closer to a boundary without requiring planning permission. However, it’s crucial to check specific local regulations as they can vary.

5. Can I build a garden building without planning permission?

Yes, garden buildings such as sheds, greenhouses, and other ancillary garden buildings can be built without planning permission, provided they meet certain criteria, such as not covering more than 50% of the garden area and adhering to height restrictions.

6. What is the biggest structure you can build in your garden without planning permission?

The largest structure you can build without planning permission is subject to several criteria, including height restrictions of 4 metres for a ridged roof and 3 metres for other roofs, and it must not cover more than 50% of the area around the original house.

7. Do I need planning permission for a shed in a field?

Generally, putting a shed in a field for agricultural purposes doesn’t need planning permission if the field is used for agriculture and the shed is required for that purpose. However, for other uses or in designated areas, you may need permission.

8. What can I build in my garden without planning permission?

You can build various structures without planning permission, including garden sheds, summer houses, greenhouses, and garages, as long as they comply with specific rules regarding size, height, and location relative to the house and boundaries.

For any project, it’s crucial to consult your local planning authority as regulations can vary and there may be local restrictions, especially in designated areas. For more consultation, you can contact our garden-building experts at Summerhouse24.
Also, If you are flustered with the above knowledge, feel free to check out our garden buildings that don’t need planning permissions hassles.