Permitted Development Rights – When is an Outbuilding ‘Reasonably Required’?

In the few years, we have won 100% of our planning appeals against councils refusing outbuildings on the basis that they were not reasonably required for purposes incidental to the main use of the house.

Houses in England have permitted development rights for various types of development, meaning they can go ahead and carry out the development without applying for planning permission. The government introduced permitted development rights so that homeowners would not need to apply for extensions and other developments thought to be minor and uncontroversial.

Permitted developments rights  allow you to build outbuildings – sheds and garages built in your garden for use as storage, as a home office or similar purposes ‘ancillary’ or ‘incidental’ to the primary use of  your home.

To carry out a development under permitted development, you must meet the criteria set out under the legislation, the General Permitted Development Order (2015) – the GPDO. Class E says that outbuildings should not generally be more than 2.5m tall and should not take up more than 50% of your site, excluding the area taken up by the main house. Outbuildings generally cannot be used as separate living or sleeping accommodation.

In recent years, people have wanted larger outbuildings – with space for home gyms, home offices, cinema rooms and storage. The increasing value of property has made it viable to build high quality garden rooms. To the dismay of some councils, large outbuildings are often permitted development and can go ahead.

Recently, councils have attempted to resist larger outbuildings by pointing out that the legislation (the GPDO) says that outbuildings must be reasonably required. They cannot be as big as a homeowner wants, but should reasonably reflect what they want the building for. In other words, if you want a building simply to store garden tools, it is not permitted development if it has an internal area of, say, 100sqm. 

The use of the outbuilding must also be incidental to the main use of the house. The outbuilding should be secondary to the main house and should not provide primary living accommodation (such as a living room or bedroom). It can be used storage, as a swimming pool, to store classic cars, as a gym, art studio, or for any other leisure activity or hobby. It is generally accepted that a gym can also include a shower room. 

If you are applying to the Council for a Certificate of Lawfulness (a type of application confirming that your proposal is, indeed, permitted development), you should therefore make clear what the outbuilding is for. Ideally, submit plans showing what each area of the building will be used for (gym, office etc) and why you require a certain floor area (e.g. if you are building a gym, explain what equipment will be installed and the floor area this is likely to take up).

Where permission is refused, we can submit a planning appeal. We submitted several appeals of this kind in the past year and had a success rate of 100%.

For example, we recently won an appeal at 52 Harlington Road, in the London Borough of Hillingdon. The Council has refused to issue a certificate of lawfulness for an outbuilding that the applicant intended to use as a home office, hobby room, cake studio, gym and for storage.

If you are refused permission (or the Council has served an Enforcement Notice for something you have already built), contact us immediately. We will assess the Council’s refusal and provide you with an assessment of your chances of success.

If you are interested learning more about householder planning (planning applications and permitted development), check out Martin Gaine’s book, How to Get Planning Permission – An Insider’s Secrets.