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How To Keep Your Garden Office Within Planning Rules

Updated: Jun 23

The pandemic may have helped alert a lot of people to the benefits of building a home office in the back yard, but it’s important to be aware of planning rules.


Nothing could be more frustrating than planning to create a home working space in the garden, only to find the local authority is telling you that you can’t do it - unless you make the error of going ahead and building it and then being told to dismantle it.


It might be easy to think that your local planning office is full of killjoys and bureaucrats who will say no to everything, but there are clear rules and by keeping to them, you can pave the way to getting a beautiful space in your back yard for work or leisure.


The first thing to note is that when it comes to the grounds of your house, a lot more things need planning permission than used to be the case, not least because of tougher environmental laws. This means something you might have been able to do years ago cannot be done now.


South Gloucestershire Council has decided to help out by issuing its own guide for those who want to build a new home office, the Bristol Post reported this week.


Among the key issues are the kind of structure that is being built. If it is an annexe - attached to the house - then planning permission is required. If it is an outbuilding then it does not. Part of the definition depends on whether the building is used for living in. If it is, that will be classed as an annexe and require a successful planning application.


An outbuilding if 2.5m or below, and below 30m² floor space internally will not need planning permission. All of our quotes will be kept within these specifications unless otherwise requested.


However, it is also worth checking if your home is in a conservation area or another place where tighter planning rules apply, as this can affect the application. It is also worth checking if you are in a restrictive covenant as that can also mean you'll need permission from your local covenant and neighbours. If your planned building takes the total area of land occupied by buildings (other than the original dwelling house as was in 1947) to over half then planning will be required. Lastly, listed buildings and/or if you plan to build near protected trees will always require planning.


The same is true if you live in a national park, which set their own planning rules that can be a lot tougher than elsewhere. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty also have tougher laws, although these are administrated by the local authorities where they lie.