Things to think about before investing in a garden office

PUBLISHED: 11:17 04 November 2020 | UPDATED: 11:51 04 November 2020

A home office at the bottom of the garden is the dream for many home workers. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A home office at the bottom of the garden is the dream for many home workers. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Increased home working has made garden offices more popular than ever. Andrew Boothby, senior planning consultant at Aitchison Raffety, considered the options...

Andrew Boothby, senior planning consultant, Aitchison Raffety. Picture: Aitchison RaffetyAndrew Boothby, senior planning consultant, Aitchison Raffety. Picture: Aitchison Raffety

Unless you are fortunate enough to have free space in your home, it is likely that your ‘home office’ doubles as a bedroom, dining room, or even a cupboard under the stairs. It is difficult to work undisturbed without interruptions from family members and it can also be difficult to switch off from work when living in the same space.

One popular solution, judging by the increase in enquiries we have had this year, is the construction of a home office in the garden. The market is wide and buildings range considerably in size, appearance and materials, providing plenty of options.

However, before you place your order, there are some important things to consider, one of which is, do you need planning permission? The answer is, maybe.

In many cases, a garden office can be built under permitted development, the legislation which allows you to alter and extend your home without the need for planning permission. However, you must comply with rules, otherwise planning permission will be required. Furthermore, you must check your property has permitted development rights, as in some cases this can be removed.

A proposed garden office would need to comply with all the following criteria:

- The total area of ground covered by the building (including any other outbuildings and extensions but excluding the original house) must not exceed 50 per cent of the total area of the curtilage.

Lockdown restrictions mean working from home is more popular now than ever. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoLockdown restrictions mean working from home is more popular now than ever. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

- No part of the proposed building can be situated on land forward of the principal elevation of the original house. Normally this is the elevation fronting the road, however, this is not always the case so be sure to check the legislation carefully or take professional advice.

- The building must not have more than one storey. This includes basement levels.

- The height of the outbuilding must not exceed 4 metres with a dual pitched roof, or 3 metres in any other case. However, if the building is situated within 2 metres of a site boundary the maximum height permitted is 2.5 metres.

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- The height of the eaves of the building must not exceed 2.5 metres.

- The building cannot be sited within the curtilage of a listed building.

- The outbuilding must not include the provision of a veranda, balcony, or raised platform.

- The outbuilding cannot be a dwelling or a microwave antenna.

- The capacity of the container must not exceed 3,500 litres. This is relevant if you intend to convert a shipping container or similar.

- If the site is in a conservation area, the proposed building cannot be located on land between the side wall of the house and the curtilage boundary. There are additional restrictions if the property is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Broads, a National Park, or a World Heritage Site.

- Finally, to comply with permitted development, the outbuilding must be used for purposes ‘incidental to the main dwelling’. As this is a guide to garden offices the word ‘incidental’ is particularly significant.

Whilst a single person working alone on a computer in an office may be considered an incidental use, a beautician using a garden office as a clinic for example, with clients visiting regularly, is unlikely to be classed an incidental because it could have an effect on the local area through increased noise, vehicle movement, parking, etc.

In view of the various criteria above, I would always recommend that you apply to the Local Planning Authority for what is called a Certificate of Lawfulness (CLD) before installing the building.

This form of application asks the council to confirm that what you want to build complies with all of the relevant permitted development criteria and, therefore, does not need formal planning permission. This is particularly important if you are planning to use the office for a business which could attract regular visitors or result in a material change of use at the site. A CLD also confirms the legitimacy of the building for the future, such as when the property is placed on the market for sale.

For advice on the construction of a garden office, contact Andrew Boothby on 01442 291798 or andrew.boothby@argroup.co.uk.


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