Garden Rooms: The consequences of building without planning permission

Most garden rooms don’t require planning permission as they can be built under householder-permitted development rights. However, in England, Scotland and Wales, there are limitations as to what can be built in domestic gardens.

If you are considering investing in a garden room, it is important to check whether you require planning permission before your you start your project. But what are the consequences if you construct a garden room without planning permission and your building does not conform to the limitations of permitted development rights?

Well, that might depend on where you live.

Why? Because local authorities are less than consistent in their attitudes to garden buildings. In addition, conservation officers and national park authorities tend to be more sensitive than local authorities to any planning infringements.

Garden rooms in conservation areas and national parks

If your home happens to be located in a conservation area, an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) or a national park, you won’t benefit from many of the permitted development rights enjoyed by other householders.

The authorities that control these specified areas tend to have restrictive planning rules and to adopt a rigid approach to enforcing them.

If you fail to gain planning permission for your project but proceed anyway, it is highly likely that the relevant authority will find out.  This would almost certainly mean that you will be forced to demolish your building.

The local authority lottery

There have been many examples of householders getting away with building garden rooms that they shouldn’t have.

In some cases, the householders have been able to keep their buildings because they have gained retrospective planning permission.

Others have benefitted from the pragmatic attitudes of their local authorities.

In rare cases, homeowners have kept their garden rooms because their local council has been too busy to care!

In 2022, an elderly resident of a property in a village in South Oxfordshire realised that his neighbour was constructing a large garden room for which he required planning permission. But the building was completed without that permission.

The planning office of South Oxfordshire District Council was notified but failed to do so much as perform a site visit despite acknowledging that the garden room was an unauthorised development.

It transpired that the council had changed its rules for enforcing planning breaches due to a shortage of staff!

Sometimes householders get lucky!

When local authorities are less charitable

While South Oxfordshire District Council have clearly adopted a flexible approach to planning enforcement, most local authorities are less amenable to planning infringements.

Earlier this year, a homeowner in Farnworth near Bolton was instructed by the local planning office to demolish his swanky zinc garden room.

The unusual building had been created by an award-winning architectural metal worker and was a high-quality construction. However, as the garden room was positioned adjacent to the highway on a corner plot, the size and height of the structure meant it required planning permission and that planning permission would have been refused.

The unfortunate metal worker is appealing the ruling from the planning office and has the support of his neighbours.

Always check your permitted development rights

As with most things concerning local authorities, you can never be sure how they will react to breaches of planning regulations.

You could build an enormous garden room without planning permission and get away with it. But you could construct a modest, stylish garden room and be forced to tear it down.

If you intend to build a garden room, take time to carefully check what you can and can’t do under your permitted development rights. If you need planning permission, apply for it! You might need to modify your plans a little, but your planning application will likely prove to be successful.

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