Architect Garry Thomas sets out his 10 top tip rules how to get planning permission in your garden.
Before applying for planning consent for a house in your garden these ten tips are a must read.
Gardens can help you get on the housing ladder or provide a home for an elderly relative, especially if the patch in question already belongs to you.
It is much more easy to do a self-build when you already own the land as the initial part of your self-build loan can be secured on the land value. The other advantage is you can live adjacent to the build without all the pitfalls of having to sell, or move out into a caravan.
Even if you don’t have a garden site the country is awash with gardens that are large enough for development so you can always work with someone who is willing.
So, what are the rules and restrictions surrounding how to get planning permission in your garden and what particular considerations apply?
Can I build a house in my garden?
Planning policy is more relaxed towards getting planning permission in your garden than in recent times. The UK wide housing crisis and the inability of young people to get on the housing ladder means the housing debate about provision of new homes is more relaxed and more open to creative solutions.
People often assume that getting planning permission for a house in your garden by infilling or back land development is not possible in planning terms. The reality is these terms don’t really have any planning foundation. Gardens located in or near existing settlements, with good public transport links and easy walking or cycling to facilities, can be suitable for building on if the council doesn’t have a five-year housing land supply.
At Thomas Studio we help you check if your council’s land supply position is out of date and if your site is suitable for housing development.
If you’re building in a garden, it is likely to be very close to adjoining properties. The proposed development must be in character with its surroundsing and must account for the settlement density – no towers in a two storey area, for example.
The proposed design should ensure no loss of privacy, light or outlook for neighbours. Safe access and adequate parking will be important in some settlements, and zero car use in others. There are other factors, such as ecology and disposal of foul and surface water, not to mention any local politics.
1. Enough space
The key area is to ensure the proposal responds well to the settlement pattern. Building line, mass and scale are all important. Having said that sometimes breaking all the rules can also result in a good planning permission. Whether your site is long, narrow, wide or split level doesn’t really matter, provided your design reflects the sites constriants.
Be sensible with what you want to put on the site and listen to your archtiect’s views on scale and density. Often schemes fail because the proposal is too big for the plot – whilst the extra bed may appear to add value the reality is it may not get planning.
2. Local vernacular
The self-build house is the definition of the vernacular tradition. Don’t copy the past or copy the house next door as this seldom gets approval. Be creative with design and materials. Design is subjective and much depends on the particular tastes and whims of the council, and even those of the individual officer dealing with the application. Your architect with a free hand will ensure the house fits in with the character and setting and enhances the street scene to maximise your chances of gaining planning approval.
Some councils publish their minimum separation distances for new developments within the design policies – figures vary depending on location and slope of site. Design can resolve these issues to ensure daylight can illuminate interior spaces without a loss of privacy. Often terraced housing and mews type developments already have good solutions for how to avoid a loss of privacy – after all the Victorians built to a very high urban density and solved problems of privacy over a century ago, we have just forgotten these principles in recent times.
This is not normally a planning matter unless there is a right to light to a habitable room; this then triggers a civil law dispute. There are however unwritten conventions about overshadowing in planning terms and these can be an issue for your design. Permitted development rules tend to handle overshadowing issues and these tend to be the back stop that planners will agree.
Blocking natural light to a third party property can prevent development and bringing in daylight to the proposed development is also an issue. Your architect will help you understand these issues and make a design work with these constriants.
There is no right to view in planning so blocking someones view is not a planning matter. However if your proposal is over bearing or overlooks your neighbours property it could be looked on creating a loss of amenity. Your architect will design a proposal that accounts for these issues in planning terms. Whether your neighbour agrees is a different matter.
Trees add value to a development site. Your architect can create a design that includes trees and more importantly their canopy and root ball spread. The loss of trees in garden plots, especially where they form part of an attractive street scene does tend to upset neighbours and councilors. Avoid chopping down if you can and always get a tree survey done which can help you to understand the significance, grade and health of your trees. You may find that some trees in the way of development are not significant and their removal won’t be a problem.
If you’re building near some of particular significance, then the design and structural footings and the construction work area will need to take account of this.
Protected species of ‘flora and fauna’ can be an issue in the way of your development. If some are anticipated on your plot, then an ecological survey will be required.
Flooding in urban areas is increasingly a problem: this is because of development and all the hardstanding created on the ground and on roofs. You need to think about how your garden plot will be drained. Sustainable urban drainage systems need to be designed in from the start. Foul water can go to a public sewer if it is nearby, otherwise you have to consider an onsite treatment system. Rainwater should be stored for as long as possible before it leaves your site: perhaps via porous paving, green roofing, water butts and even below ground storage soak aways.
It’s important to think about the sustainable aspects of water use and water leaving your proposed site, the more sustainable your system the more likely you will obtain planning consent.
Safe access is necessary and adequate parking including space to turn your vehicle around on-site so it can leave in a forward gear. Some areas require zero-car development and other local authorities insist on parking. Your architect will help you understand your development requirements before you start.
10. Local politics
Councilors and neighbours all know friends and family who can’t get on the housing ladder. So they have softened their views on garden-plot developments in recent times. Aim to get your neighbours on board by keeping them informed of what you are doing and what you are proposing; your architect can help you with this. Your Local Ward Councillor is also an important contact as it will be this person who communicates with the planning officer on your behalf.
Avoid objection if you can, while political influence shouldn’t play a significant role in planning decisions, it undoubtedly does so your best diplomacy skills are going to be needed.
Dont forget to fill in the form above to arrange your FREE call back with architect Garry Thomas, who will be happy to help you establish if your garden plot has planning potential.