Planning permission:can we build a 'shoffice' in the garden - to create more space around the house?

We've just had a new baby and are struggling for space. A ‘shoffice’ in the garden would provide a quiet retreat when working from home - do we need planning permission for this? 

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We’ve just had a new baby and have been thinking about building a ‘Shoffice’ in the garden to help free up some space around the house and provide a quiet retreat when working from home. Do we need planning permission for this? 

You may not need planning permission (subject to below) as the construction of a ‘Shoffice’ falls under permitted development rights.

Other uses, including gyms and indoor swimming pools, may also be permitted as long as the use is considered ‘incidental’ to the enjoyment of your home. Generally, three factors determine whether development falls under these rights: location, design and use. 

If your house is listed or an existing planning condition/Article 4 direction has removed your permitted development rights you will need to apply for full planning permission and/or listed building consent. Even if you live in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty a National Park or Conservation Area, the right still exists, however additional restrictions on the location of the building mean that it must be in the rear garden and not at the side of the house. 

Furthermore, in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks, if the building exceeds 10 m² it must not be more than 20 metres from the house. This is to avoid the building becoming isolated from your home and consequentially requiring some degree of self-sufficiency - ie the building would no longer be ‘incidental’ or ancillary to your home. 

In design terms the building must be single storey and cannot be located to the front of the house. If you choose a pitched roof then the overall height must not exceed four metres (with the eaves not exceeding 2.5 metres). Choosing a flat roof design would allow a maximum height of three metres. Regardless of the style you choose, if the building is within two metres of your boundary wall then the overall height cap is 2.5 metres. 

When considering size, remember that no more than 50 per cent of the total land area of your dwelling curtilage can be covered by new buildings (excluding your house). Any previous outbuildings must also be taken into account. Second, the size of the building must be proportionate to its ‘incidental’ use - so your council may not accept that your proposed building is ‘incidental’ if you can get 20 desks and a board room in it. 

It is accepted that office and storage uses fall under the ‘incidental’ use category whereas primary uses/activities such as sleeping, living and cooking do not. Before going further I strongly advise you to apply to your council for a Lawful Development certificate in order to ensure that your proposal is lawful. 

This only costs £97.50 and gives you peace of mind if you think your neighbours might complain in the future.


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