Couple billed nearly £500 for creating vegetable patch – here’s how to avoid the same charge

The pair must pay to keep their greenery in their garden – here's how to avoid it happening to you

Vegetable garden
(Image credit: GettyImages)

Two garden enthusiasts have been billed almost £500 from their local council after creating a vegetable patch in their garden. Lee and Kirstie Lawes turned part of their lawn into a vegetable patch but have been asked to pay £469 for the planning permission to keep growing.

The couple, who began experimenting with small vegetable garden ideas in lockdown, are facing claims from council officials who say that the vegetable patch has resulted in a 'change of use' of the land.

Vegetable garden

(Image credit: GettyImages)

According to the Daily Mail (opens in new tab), the couple owns the piece of land that was formally open to the public. However, the South Kesteven District Council classifies the area as an 'informal open space.' 

After Lee and Kirstie fenced off the area and began growing, it became subject to a 'change of use' planning application – the cost of which is £469.

But when is this application essential? Here, the experts share how to plan your garden design – so you can avoid the same bill.

When do you need a change of use planning application?

Vegetable garden

(Image credit: GettyImages)

Your land is subject to a planning application if it constitutes a material change of use, according to GOV.UK (opens in new tab). These regulations suggest there is no statutory definition of 'material change of use'; however, it is determined by a change in how land is used. 

'Typically, homeowners do not need to apply for planning permission to grow vegetables in their garden; however, this case is slightly more complicated, as the area appears to be classified as an informal open space,' says Samantha Jones, a gardening expert at MyJobQuote (opens in new tab)

Therefore, in the Lawes' case, planning permission would be required to change the use of the space from public land to a private vegetable garden. 'The couple should have been made aware of this before they moved in to prevent future planning permission costs,' Samantha says. 

Vegetable garden

(Image credit: GettyImages)

In this instance, and others where land turns from public to private, Samantha says that it is important to apply for the change of use planning application, as without it, you could struggle to resell or remortgage your house due to unauthorized land use.

How to avoid the same charge

Vegetable garden

(Image credit: GettyImages)

While you can typically introduce kitchen garden ideas without a charge, Samantha urges you to clarify with your local authorities if you're under any doubt. 

'You should check with your local council first to ensure that the land is private, and if so, there is no need to apply for planning permission,' she says. 

Or if you'd rather stick to growing vegetables in pots – that's a foolproof option too. 

Megan is the News and Trends Editor at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Gardeningetc, Livingetc, and Real Homes. As the News Editor, she often focuses on emerging microtrends, sleep and wellbeing stories, and celebrity-focused pieces. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.