Garden office planning permission: a complete guide

Need to know about garden office planning permission? Discover the rules you’ll need to follow

garden office planning permission garden room idea
(Image credit: Green Retreats)

Looking to add an outdoor room but unsure of garden office planning permission rules? With increasing numbers of us working from home on either a temporary or permanent basis, adding a garden room is one way to solve your home office dilemmas. 

But can you just go ahead and put up a garden office under the permitted development (PD) regime without having to apply for planning permission? The answer is sometimes. As with other outbuildings, where you live, where you locate the office in your garden, and its dimensions count. In addition, the way in which you’ll use your garden office is important, too.

A garden office can save you from the trouble of trying to fit your work on to the kitchen table, or do it in the corner of the living room. It can provide you with pleasant surroundings, and a space you can shut the door on at the end of the day. A commute down the garden will take moments, meanwhile, and it’s stress-free, too. 

So if you're thinking of adding a garden room, keep reading for all the information you need about planning permission, then head over to our garden office ideas for inspiration for your new work from home space. 

Modular garden office with wood cladding

(Image credit: Garden Pods)

Do I need planning permission? 

Many outbuildings – a category which includes garden offices – are permissible under the permitted development (PD) regime , which means they don’t require an application for planning permission. These are the criteria:

  • You live in a house rather than a flat or maisonette.
  • Your permitted development rights haven’t been removed by a planning condition, Article 4 direction, or other restriction.
  • Yours is not a listed building. If it is, you’ll need planning permission.
  • You live in a national park, the Broads, an area of outstanding national beauty (AONB), or world heritage site, and the outbuilding will be more than 20m from any wall of your house. If this is the case, the total area of any outbuildings can’t be bigger than 10 square metres.

What size of garden office can you add?

First of all, think about the area the garden office will take up plus the area covered by any existing outbuildings. Here we’re talking sheds, greenhouses, garages, but also sauna cabins and kennels, and even things you likely wouldn’t think of as having an influence such as swimming pools and tennis courts. 

Extensions to the house count as well. You can’t cover more than half the land round your house (as it was first built or as it stood on 1 July 1948 if it was built before then) with outbuildings and other additions if you want to build without requiring planning permission.

The height of the proposed garden office is important, too. Here the PD rules say your building must be single storey, and can have a maximum eaves height of 2.5m and maximum overall height of 4m if it has a dual-pitched roof or 3m with any other roof.

If your garden office would be within 2m of the boundary of your house, then the whole building can’t be taller than 2.5m high.

garden office ideas of a pale grey garden office with bi-fold doors

(Image credit: Norwegian Log Buildings)

Where can a garden office be located?

To make use of permitted development you can’t put your garden office forward of a wall forming your house’s principal elevation.

And on so-called designated land – national parks and the Broads, AONBs, world heritage sites and conservation areas – an office at the side of a house would also need planning permission.

Other points to consider

Your garden office is probably meant for working from home (rather than just providing an admin space) and the government advice on the planning portal is that you don’t necessarily need planning permission to work from home. It states that it will probably be needed only if any of the following apply:

  • You won’t be using your home mainly as a private residence any longer
  • Your business would cause a marked rise in traffic or people calling
  • It would involve activities unusual in a residential area
  • It would disturb neighbours at unreasonable hours or create other nuisance such as noise and smells

Also worth bearing in mind is that an outbuilding – that is your garden office – under the PD regime needs to be ‘incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling house’. What is ‘incidental’? 

We’ll come to that below, but for now the message is that as well as assessing whether your garden office would need an application for planning permission according to the criteria on size and position of the office, and bearing in mind any restrictions because of listing or the area in which you live, you need to take the above factors into consideration, too.

Modular garden office with bi-fold doors

(Image credit: Norwegian Log Buildings)

Can I run my business from a garden office?

Using an office for your business could exclude it from the ‘incidental’ category in planning terms even though the same building might be allowable under PD if it were a hobby space. 

The best approach is to speak to a local planning officer and explain what you want to build and how you will use it (you may be charged for this service). If the advice is that you don’t need planning permission, it would be a sound idea to apply for a householder certificate of lawful development (LDC). 

You do have to pay for this, but it will provide confirmation, and you can show prospective buyers when you come to sell up. Note that if you don’t follow the rules, you could be made to take down your building.

small garden office with wood cladding

(Image credit: Crown Pavilions)

What about the neighbours?

If you do need to apply for planning permission, your neighbours will be notified about your garden office, and they have the right to object. But whether you need planning permission or not, it’s worth telling them about your project before you begin for the sake of good relations, and so that they can see it won’t have a negative impact on their home(s).

Going ahead with your garden office

You shouldn’t be put off building a garden office even if you do need planning permission. Gaining it isn’t a complicated matter and should only take a couple of months. As PD brings with it height restrictions, it could well be a better route to take to ensure your office is just what you need.

More garden buildings advice:

Sarah Warwick
Freelance writer

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes and gardens and loves investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper.