One of the first tasks during your garden office research is to ascertain if you need to apply for Planning Permission – its not enough to rely on suppliers websites that say ‘planning permission not required’ because whether you need Planning Permission depends on where you live, what you plan to build and what you are using the building for.
In many cases a garden office can be built under ‘Permitted Development’ rules. These rules state the sizes and positioning of different shape buildings which can be built without the need for full Planning Permission and they are clearly laid out on the Planning Portal website.
The Permitted Development Rules
We can’t stress how important it is to check whether you will need to apply for Planning Permission before you go too far down the buying process – in the worst case scenario you can be made to take down an unauthorised building – no one wants that!
If you are unsure if you need to apply for Planning Permission after reading the guidelines it is worth applying to your local Planning Department for pre-planning advice, this is an informal application which allows you to ascertain whether planning is needed in your individual circumstances – you’ll have the advice one way or another in writing! Whether there is a fee and how much it is depends on your local authority, Wiltshire our local authority charges £30 for a written response and £75 for a Householder Certificate of Lawfulness (correct March 2014) – this is not the same as applying for Planning Permission, but is proof that your building work is lawful – useful when you come to sell the house.
Will your office be incidental to the use of your house?
If you have taken a look at the Planning Portal page for outbuildings mentioned in the previous section you will have seen that Class E (a) says that building should be incidental to the employment of the dwelling house.
As this is a guide to garden offices the word incidental and this clause is very significant.
A happening as a minor accompaniment to something else.
The Oxford English Dictionary
We know from our years of experience that garden offices have a wide spectrum of different occupations undertaken in them – from lone workers to medical clinics, and not all of these endeavors can be classed as incidental to the enjoyment of the home dwelling.
Whilst you working alone on your computer in a office may be considered an incidental use, a beautician using a garden office as a clinic with a stream of clients probably wouldn’t be classed as incidental, because it would have an effect on the neighbourhood i.e the number of cars, noise etc.
Ascertaining if you need Planning Permission for your garden office usage is another benefit of an Pre-Planning Advice Application.
Talk to your Neighbours
If you do apply for Planning Permission your neighbours will be asked their opinion about the building, and it is good practice to have a word with them and show them what you plan to build before they are contacted, in our experience if a neighbour is aware of what is going to be built, how it will affect their view, how long it will take to build and what you plan to use it for, it can avoid any problems during the application process.
Even if you are building under Permitted Development rules and therefore not applying for full Planning Permission it’s still good practice to talk it through with your neighbours before you start work – an informed neighbour is a happy neighbour!
Don’t be fearful of Planning Permission
We know that many people are put off the idea of a garden office if they do need to apply for Planning Permission, but there is no real need to be fearful, many garden office suppliers report a 100% success rate on planning applications.
Actually applying for Planning Permission is quite straight forward and you can easily handle the application yourself, although many suppliers will handle it as part of the service they offer you, whether there is a charge will depend on the suppliers policy.
If you are handling the applications yourself, your supplier will provide you with scale drawings for submission with your application, you will also need a scale sitemap of your plot which you have to mark the proposed development on – map prices start at £10 plus VAT and you can buy them via the Planning Portal.
The application will ask you about the external materials being used and how you will control rainwater – again your supplier will provide you with all the details.
There is a fee for full Planning Permission, this can differ from local authority to local authority, our local Wiltshire Council charges £172 at the time of writing – March 2014.
The Planning Permission application process takes around eight weeks.
Do you need to consider Building Regulations?
Whilst Planning Permission is at the forefront of a garden office buyers mind, you also need to consider whether your build needs to comply with Building Regulations.
Building Regulations ensure that a building is built to the highest standards and is safe for occupation and energy efficient.
The Planning Portal says that:
Building regulations will not normally apply if the floor area of the building is less than 15 square meters and contains NO sleeping accommodation. If the floor area of the building is between 15 square meters and 30 square meters, you will not normally be required to apply for building regulations approval providing that the building contains NO sleeping accommodation and is either at least one meter from any boundary or it is constructed of substantially non-combustible materials.”
In many cases a garden office can be built without the need to apply for Building Regulations, but if you plan to sleep in it – even only occasionally you will need to apply for Building Regulations.
As garden office designs become more elaborate including kitchens and shower rooms its important that these elements are installed to Building Regulation standards.
It’s reassuring that many of the high end suppliers build to Building Regulation levels as standard, and are fully versed at working with Building Control Officers.
The one element of Building Regulations that every garden office needs to comply with is the electrics – these must be installed by a certified electrician.
If you do need to apply for Building Regulations for instance if you are building tight to the boundary, you may find that you have to choose different materials from the standard specification to comply, for instance Building Control can insist that you change the exterior cladding from wood to a non combustible material – but fear not your supplier will have several stylish options up their sleeve! We discuss these options in our cladding guide.
When it comes to insulation many designers use the standards set for new houses as a target for the insulation levels in their office designs, many of them meet these levels and even exceed them – this is great of course because a well insulated garden office will be a comfortable place to work all year round, and cheaper to run than a poorly insulated design, but achieving these targets doesn’t mean that the whole building is Building Regulations compliant and you should ask the individual supplier about their compliance – most quality suppliers will adapt their design to comply if it doesn’t as standard.
There are fees involved in complying with Building Regulations and you should expect for these to be passed on to you, your chosen supplier will normally handle the application process for you as part of the project cost.