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By Amy Hanlon on 10 Apr 2024

When does a garden shed need planning permission?


Does a garden shed need planning permission? Good question, and one that’s not always immediately clear. 

In the majority of cases, a garden shed won’t need planning permission because of a set of rules known as permitted development. These rules help avoid the planning process in certain situations, like when you’re putting a shed in your garden. But figuring out whether or not they apply to your individual case can be tricky at times.

That’s why we’ve created the Gillies & Mackay Planning Permission Checklist, to help you decide whether or not your shed will need a planning application.

How to use The Planning Permission Checklist

The Gillies and Mackay Planning Permission Checklist, which asks ten questions to determine whether or not planning permission is needed.

This checklist helps you start your garden building plans. If you’re unsure about any of the advice given in this post or have any other questions, the best thing to do is check with your local authority planning department.

But as a general guide, if you can answer no to all of the questions in this checklist you won’t need planning permission. So what are we waiting for?

Does a shed need planning permission if it’s used for business?

Permitted development rules don’t apply to business premises. You need planning permission if you’re specifically building a shed to use as a workshop for your wood-turning consortium or your T-shirt-printing empire, even if you satisfy all the other conditions for permitted development.

This is because businesses impact the area that they’re established in. Planning permission exists to make sure that whatever changes you make won’t negatively affect where you live or the other people who live nearby.

If your business will increase traffic and decrease parking spaces in your area, your neighbours need to know about this beforehand. Putting up signage or having extra waste disposal needs would also potentially change the environment and impact other people.

But if your shed isn’t housing a business, you can answer no to this question and you’ll be fine under permitted development rules.

Does a shed need planning permission if I live in a tenement block?

Remember your neighbours! That’s the golden rule when it comes to thinking about whether or not planning permission is necessary.

If you live in a tenement block you most likely share a garden area with other residents. A tenement is a building with one or more flats. Putting up a shed in this sort of garden impacts the other residents and their gardens, so planning permission could be needed.

Here’s where things start to get more complex. There are permitted development rules in place that allow a single bike store if your communal garden is shared by two or more flats. Only one bike store is allowed, and the building must be specifically for storing bikes.

But in general, if you want to put up a shed in a shared garden, you’ll need planning permission.

Does a shed need planning permission if I have upstairs or downstairs neighbours?

Similar to the rules for tenements – if you have neighbours right there above or below you, you have to consider them before you charge ahead with a shed plan.

Even if you have a private garden; if that garden is attached to a building with other flats in it, permitted development rights don’t allow for a garden shed.

They do allow for a single building, but since it must be smaller than 1.5m in height, 1.2m in depth and 2.5m in width, this doesn’t really allow for a garden shed. These rules would allow a small storage bunker or something similar. Anything larger than these measurements would need planning permission.

But if you don’t have any downstairs or upstairs neighbours, you can check this off as a no.

Does a shed need planning permission if it’s outside my garden?

If it’s not your land, you can’t put a shed on it.

The area around your house is officially as the curtilage. This area is shown in the deeds of the property. The curtilage includes any paths, patios, steps, ponds, grass, fields, gravel or ground of any sort, as long as it’s within the boundary lines of that property.

If you’re planning on putting a shed in any other place that isn’t part of your property, you can apply for planning permission, but if it isn’t your land, you can’t put a shed (or anything else) on it.

While this sounds incredibly obvious, it’s not always immediately clear which land belongs to which property. It’s very easy to assume that an area next to your property belongs to you, but unless you check the deeds, you may find it’s shared, communal, or council property.

To see a map of your property, including the boundaries, you can search for your postcode on Scotland’s Land Information Service website.

Does a shed need planning permission if it’s in front of my house?

The ideal scenario for avoiding planning permission is a shed that’s going in a back garden.

Once again, this relates to the impact that a shed has on your neighbourhood and your neighbours. The area in front of your house may well belong to you, but everyone else in the area can see it too.

Because of this, permitted development rights apply to buildings behind the front elevation of your house.

A diagram
In this diagram from the ScotGov website, the red areas are in front of the principal or front elevation. The red and white areas are in front of the side elevation.

Building a shed in the red areas on this diagram would need planning permission. In the red and white or white areas, permitted development rules apply.

Does a shed need planning permission if it’s within 1m of a boundary?

Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty! We’re going to need another diagram for this one.

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

Here’s what the rules say: “any part that’s a metre or less from the boundary is no higher than 2.5 metres.” The diagram above illustrates this. This rule doesn’t mean that your building can’t be higher than 2.5m. It just means that it can’t be higher than 2.5m within that imaginary dotted-line box shown in the diagram. Once more, this is to avoid blocking out your neighbours’ views and sunlight.

And remember – the boundary is the line (marked or unmarked) between your property and whatever is next to it. You may have to check your property deeds if you don’t know where these boundaries are.

Does a shed need planning permission if it’s more than 4m high?

A building over 4m high will need planning permission. But also, what sort of shed are you building that’s more than 4m high? That’s a big old garden shed, that is!

It’s not hard to imagine your neighbours getting annoyed about a 4m+ building suddenly appearing in their eyeline. At this sort of size, you’re talking about an agricultural building rather than a shed.

Does a shed need planning permission if its walls are more than 3m high?

The 3m limit applies to the walls of the shed, specifically the gable where the walls and roof meet. As with the previous rule, this is very unlikely to cause problems. A garden shed with a gable higher than 3m would be enormous. However, if you’re building a shed high enough to accommodate two stories, you’ll need planning permission.

Does a shed need planning permission if I live in a conservation area or a listed building?

Living in a conservation area or listed building doesn’t mean you can’t have a garden shed. But it does mean that you will need planning permission for it.

There are more than 600 conservation areas in Scotland. You can check your local authority website if you’re not sure if your home is affected. Perth & Kinross Council has an interactive map of all the conservation areas and listed buildings. Each different council will have some sort of record of where these areas are.

As well as the usual concerns about altering the appearance of an area or impacting its residents, living in a conservation area or listed building means considering the historical impact of any changes. Planning permission makes sure that you’re not altering the character of your property or the area it’s in.

Does a shed need planning permission if it takes up more than 50% of your garden?

And finally, permitted development rights apply to up to 50% of your total curtilage. This means that a garden shed that’s more than half the size of your garden needs planning permission.

This rule also includes all and any buildings that come under permitted development rules. Let’s say you already have a garden room and a greenhouse and you decide to add a garden shed. You have to add up the total area of all three of these buildings. If all of these buildings add up to more than 50% of your curtilage, the garden shed would need planning permission.

What if my garden shed needs planning permission?

A Gillies & Mackay apex shed painted cream on a slabbed base surrounded by gravel.

If your garden shed plans look like they’ll involve planning permission, don’t panic.

Planning permission isn’t the dreaded horror that many people imagine. It adds two things to your project: time and money.

While neither of these additions is ideal, they don’t have to stand in the way of your shed dreams.

Many garden building companies will even deal with your application for you. There’s usually a fee for this service, but it takes the responsibility out of your hands.

If you do have to make an application, it’s not nearly as complicated as it seems. We’ve got a post that runs through everything you need.

Still not sure whether or not your project is permitted development or planning permission? Why not come in and see us and let us help you decide? Book a Consultation and our team can answer all of your questions to get your garden project up and running.

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