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Planning permission for a garden office! Only I could be so excited to write about such a thing!

It seems like a murky old world, planning permission. You may think that no one really knows how it works or who makes the decisions. But like most things, all that’s needed to navigate planning permission is a mixture of knowledge and experience. With 30+ years of experience building sheds, summerhouses, garages and garden rooms, we know a thing or two about planning permission, and we’re more than happy to share with you.

What is permitted development?

Permitted development rights allow you to make certain changes to your home and garden in Scotland without the need for planning permission. They’re an absolute godsend for Sheddies, because the vast majority of garden buildings fall under the rules laid out for permitted development. Let me say that again: most garden buildings don’t need planning permission.

If you can follow the guidelines for permitted development, you won’t need planning permission, no matter what kind of garden building you’ll be using as your office.

What are the rules for permitted development?

What? You don’t want to wade through screeds of government documents to find out for yourself? But it’s such fun!

If poring over legislation isn’t your idea of a good time, you’re in luck. We have a checklist that will give you an idea of whether you need to investigate further. If you can answer “NO” to all of these questions, you WON’T need planning permission:

The Gillies and Mackay Planning Permission Checklist, showing the ten questions to ask to determine whether or not permitted development applies for a shed, garage or garden room.

Now, perhaps that first check box is filling you with dread. Surely a garden office is going to be used for business? But calm yourself – there’s business use and there’s business use. Here’s what ScotGov has to say about it:

Planning permission isn’t normally needed if the part of your home you use for business doesn’t change the overall character of your home as a residence.

The key test is: how much will running the business impact on your neighbours and the overall use of the surrounding space or environment? What matters is the extent to which there will be an increase in traffic, noise or activity.

You may need planning permission if:

  • your home is no longer used mainly as a private residence
  • your business results in an increase of traffic or people calling e.g. deliveries to your home affect parking for your neighbours
  • your business involves any activities that are unusual in a residential area e.g. using hazardous materials or processing that causes unacceptable noise.
  • your business will disturb your neighbours at unreasonable hours or create other forms of nuisance”

What is planning permission for?

The planning application process exists to protect people from annoyance, unreasonable behaviour and unexpected changes. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Will this building bother anyone?”

Permitted development rights are extremely reasonable. If your garden office doesn’t block out your neighbour’s only source of sunlight or create an eyesore that everyone else in your street has to look at, you’re doing fine.

Shared gardens are not subject to permitted development for exactly this reason. If you live in a tenement or share your garden with your neighbours, plonking an office in the middle of that space is definitely going to bother them.

What are the exceptions to permitted development?

If your garden office is going to be at the back of your garden, and you don’t share that garden with anyone else, you’re off to a flying start.

Buildings that cover more than 50% of the total area of land attached to your home will need planning permission. Curtilage is the formal name for this land. It includes pathways, patios, lawns, driveways and any other land that belongs to your home and isn’t shared by anyone else.

There are also limits on the height of any building that you install. Don’t worry; these limits are also very reasonable – 4m for the building and 3m for the walls. You’d need both a monstrously huge garden and the tallest office equipment known to man to ever need such a huge structure for a garden office.

Can I put my garden office within 1m of a boundary?

A diagram showing a boundary and a 1m by 2.5m box. A shed or summerhouse outline is shown, part of which is inside the box, showing that planning permission isn't necessary.

If your building is within 1m of a boundary, nothing within that 1m can be taller than 2.5m. The building in this diagram is taller than 2.5m, but wouldn’t need planning permission, because nothing within the 1m “box” is taller than the 2.5m limit.

If this all seems crazy complicated, remember that any reputable garden building company will be able to advise you whether or not your individual project needs planning permission.

What if I do need planning permission?

Good question! Sometimes planning permission applications have to happen. But the good news is that this process doesn’t have to be difficult. That reputable garden building company you consulted may also offer a planning application service.

If you have to do it yourself, it isn’t as complicated as you might think. The most common reason for rejected planning applications is not having all the necessary paperwork. You can also correct your mistakes and re-apply. We have only seen two or three complete rejections in all our years in business.

Are there any other rules involved in building a garden office?

Do you need to worry about business rates and tax rules? Take a look to keep yourself right. The rising popularity of home working means that there aren’t any legal or financial obstacles. Even the dustiest, strictest CEOs now realise that we don’t all have to be in the same office building at all times to get on with our jobs.

How do I buy a garden office?

What are you waiting for? Get planning! Whether you’re smashing spreadsheets in a shed, balancing the books in a beautiful summerhouse, or growing the economy in a gorgeous garden room, there’s a garden office option out there for you. If you’d like to see some in action, come on down to our Show Area and take a look. Our Sales Team can help you realise your garden office dreams, with or without planning permission!

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