Can You Build It?

Many people in England believe that you cannot build a new, freestanding building of any kind without planning permission.

Others think that you are limited to nothing more than a garden shed. In fact, most UK homeowners have the ability to build even fairly substantial structures without first seeking planning permission.

First off, I should say that these are the rules for England, not the UK as a whole. Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales each have slightly different rules. Certain towns and cities or historical regions within larger cities in England have more stringent rules, and properties that are Listed are even more difficult to add to. Make sure you know your local laws and regulations before attempting any kind of construction.


What kind of outbuildings can you build without planning permission?


Anything that is not specifically disallowed by England’s planning permission (or other) regulations counts as ‘permitted development’, and is perfectly OK to build.

These rules apply very broadly, including not just sheds, garages and ‘ancillary garden buildings’, but also ‘most other structures’ that are ‘incidental to the enjoyment of a dwellinghouse’.

Building flats or maisonettes, converting other buildings into houses and many other projects follow their own rules as well.

Planning permission need only be sought if the building you are about to construct exceeds these limits:

  • You may not place an outbuilding forward of a wall which forms the primary elevation for the property.
  • The outbuilding can only be one storey tall.
  • Its eaves height must be no greater than 2.5 metres.
  • Its roof height must be no more than 3 metres for most roof types, or 4 metres if it is a dual pitched roof.
  • The total height of a building placed within 2 metres of the edge of the curtilage is 2.5 metres, inclusive of the roof.
  • The outbuilding may not include a raised platform, balcony or veranda of any kind.
  • Placing the new outbuilding would not result in more than half of the open land that had been around the house either in 1948, or when it was built if that was later than 1948, being covered by outbuildings. That basically means that you can only take up half your garden with outbuildings.

There are a few exceptions. National parks, conservation areas, World Heritage Sites, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Broads and a few other areas are considered ‘designated land’. The following limits only apply on ‘designated land’.

  • Any ‘building container or pool’ at the side of a property will require planning permission, regardless of any other provisions.
  • You can only cover a maximum of 10 square metres of land that is more than 20metres away from the house with ‘buildings, containers and pools’ without planning permission. That is 10 m2 in total, not per building.

So long as your planned outbuilding or structure doesn’t run afoul of any of these limits, it should count as ‘permitted development’ and won’t require planning permission. Still, it is always best to check with your local authority before beginning construction.