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Unveiling Planning Permission: A Comprehensive Guide for Summer House Owners

Many people dream of having a garden with a summerhouse. Finally, you have all the room you require for gardening supplies, lawnmowers, and tools.

Regretfully, planning permission is a constant concern in the UK. Many people are concerned about their ability to develop a garden building without limitations.

It depends on the response. While some summer houses do need planning permission, most don’t anymore because of legal developments.

This guide provides more clarity on garden building planning authorisation. By the end, you should have a better idea of whether you require planning permission for your new building.

Planning Permission: Allowed Development Rights for a Summerhouse

The Town and Country Planning Act was introduced by the Labour government in 2008. It sought to modernise antiquated planning regulations and simplify property modifications for English residents.

Overnight, many hateful planning regulations vanished, to the delight of citizens nationwide. An Englishman once again ruled his fortress!

The regulation meant that local planning officials could not impede the progress of a development as long as it met specific requirements. Put differently, individuals were allowed to erect summer buildings in their gardens as long as they complied with the regulations.

Naturally, additional residential structures like cabins, garages, greenhouses, and summer buildings were also included in the rule. It implied that anyone might erect an outbuilding as long as it enhanced the home’s appeal.

Here, “outbuildings” is the crucial word. Even after the 2008 act, private homeowners were still required to seek planning permission for modifications that were essential to the house’s operation. However, currently, the laws are far more lenient for those who wish to build new buildings on their property, such as dog kennels, steam rooms, and heating tanks.

Painted Options
Painted summerhouse
Insulated Range
Insulated Range
Summerhouse Sheds
Combo summer house Shed
Show Rooms
Shed show rooms

What Are The Regulations Regarding Outbuildings in Permitted Development?

Thanks to permitted development legislation, you can erect your structure without going through the traditional planning processes. Your proposals must, nonetheless, adhere to the legal restrictions.

This is a comprehensive list of requirements that any new summerhouse needs to meet to be approved for development:

For Home Use Only

Your summer building can only be used for residential purposes. Permitted development laws do not permit you to build commercial workshops for production use on your land.

Absence of sleeping accommodations

Building a summerhouse with a place to sleep is not possible. Structures shouldn’t be used as homes; they should only be used during the day or sometimes.

Restricted Dimensions

The structure cannot cover more than 50% of the garden (apart from the home). It can’t encompass your whole plot.

Nothing Above The Principal Elevation

The structure cannot be erected in front of your house’s front wall, which is the area of your front garden that is between your house’s façade and the street.

Restricted Height

Any summer house you construct must be:

  • Less than 2.5 metres tall at the eaves
  • Less than 4 metres tall at the highest point if dual-pitched
  • Less than 3 metres tall in any other case

The rule means that taller structures can be constructed, but they must fall within the maximum height guidelines. A double-height building at the eaves is not allowed.


To comply with the previous prerequisite, the building can only have one level. Under permitted development rights, staircases, mezzanines, and second stories are not permitted.

Within The Property’s Boundaries

The edge of the summerhouse should be two metres from the property line. Owners should avoid placing buildings in the middle of large lawns or paved areas.

Not a porch or balcony

Extensions to summer buildings that mimic residential spaces, including sitting rooms or landscaping areas, are prohibited.

Enhanced Structures 300 mm or less

Any raised components, such as the concrete base, cannot exceed 300 mm above the ground.

How big can a summerhouse be without planning permission?

Summerhouses should generally not exceed 15 square metres in size. Restrictions apply to buildings larger than 30 square metres. However, these are only permitted in particular circumstances, such as when new buildings are built on an industrial or agricultural site. Planners are reluctant to authorise extra-large structures on standard home sites.

How close can I build a summer house to my Neighbours fence?

Provided the summerhouse is less than 2.5m tall and do not infringe the above conditions you can build close to the fence. We recommend leaving about 30cm to allow access for treating the building.

It is also highly recommended to talk to your neighbours to let them know what you would like to do. This is not compulsory but it is one of those things which is just nice to do.

.When do you need planning permission?

When the government implemented approved development rights in 2008, it aimed to provide residents with the opportunity to build conventional garden buildings, which can include summerhouses. As a result, if you want to do anything beyond this, you will probably require planning clearance.

You will need planning clearance and authorised development rights if you wish to use your summer house as a self-contained housing unit. According to planning regulations, providing running water and other living services transforms it into housing.

You will also require planning clearance to operate a home office from your summer building, which will need to be insulated for all year round use, for business purposes. If you work alone, planners will quickly grant you permission to build this form of garden building. However, getting permission to meet with clients may be more difficult.

You can keep domestic animals in it, such as birds, dogs, cats, and chickens. However, they must be for your pleasure. The animals cannot be sold commercially for meat. If you want to keep cattle for production, you will need planning clearance, which can be difficult to obtain unless you live in an agriculturally zoned area.



The majority of UK residential dwellings are subject to permitted development laws. However, there are several instances in which other laws, ordinances, and norms apply.

Designated Land

Current rules do not allow you to exercise full permissible development rights in:

  • National parks (e.g., Lake District, New Forest, and Dartmoor)
  • Areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) like the Howardian Hills or North Pennine.
  • World Heritage Sites (historic monuments)
  • Conversation Areas

However, certain rights may still be available. For example, you may be permitted to build a summerhouse in these regions without obtaining planning approval if:

  • It covers less than 10 square metres
  • It is more than 20 metres from any permanent dwellinghouse wall

Listed Buildings

Listed building restrictions also limit the extent of authorised construction. Even if your building fits the above specifications, you will still require Listed Building Consent.

There are three grades of listed buildings.

  • Grade II
  • Grade II*
  • Grade I

Most listed buildings in England and Wales are Grade II. Grade II* is deemed “national importance,” whereas Grade I is “exceptional importance.”

The local authority grants permission to work on listed buildings. All work within the property’s limits (or adjacent to them in some situations) requires authorisation, including the construction of sheds.

Planners provide consent on an individual basis. Their primary concern is how the building would affect the historic character of the building.

Most planners choose designs that mirror or improve the original building’s style. As a result, don’t attempt to build anything prefabricated or made of metal. Acceptable solutions may be costly, but they can give you more room in your home.

Before purchasing a summer house for a listed structure, speak with your local Conservation Officer. This official can assist you in submitting suitable designs and materials for your proposed building, but they cannot promise that you will obtain planning clearance.

Woodland Garden Buildings

Permitted development rights apply to sheds (and summer houses, etc)  in woodlands; however, the development criteria are stricter than for residential gardens.

For example, you must show that it is “reasonably necessary” for woodland upkeep. Legitimate uses include equipment, tool storage, and a workplace for forestry management.

You must also consider size. Woodland buildings are not subject to any clear size restrictions under the statute. However, planners are more likely to allow sheds under 20 square metres.

Bathrooms and bedrooms.

Finally, allowed development rights do not cover summer buildings that include bathrooms and beds. These structures could be used as homes and hence require additional planning authorisation.

You should not install a toilet or washbasin in the building unless you have authorisation. Local authorities may order you to remove them if you include such elements.

.What Happens If You Break Permitted Development Rules While Building An Outbuilding?

Always check with your local planning authority (LPA) before beginning construction to confirm that your plans match their specifications. Local councils will take legal action if they discover you have violated authorised development restrictions.

If authorities determine that your building violated permitted development restrictions and did not have necessary planning approval, they will most likely take enforcement action. Buildings under construction will be issued a Stop Notice. This document instructs you to suspend construction on the summerhouse immediately.

Owners of previously finished buildings will receive an Enforcement Notice. This notice directs you to remove or modify the building to comply with regulations.

The severity of these notifications depends on how much you deviate from approved development rights. In exceptional situations, you may need to dismantle the summer house totally.

Most local councils want to avoid issuing fines if they believe you made a mistake. However, you may face penalties if you fail to comply with planning rules on time. Therefore, check the deadline on your Enforcement Notice. It should specify when you will face fines.

.Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I learn more about the rules for the authorised development of the shed and summer building?

The government makes it easy to acquire information on approved development requirements for sheds and other outbuildings. You can get advice on the GOV.UK website and PlanningPortal.co.uk

Local solicitors occasionally provide helpful information.

Can the council order me to remove my shed or outbuilding?

The council can demolish your summerhouse if you did not obtain planning permission and the structure violates authorised development restrictions. However, circumstances in which you must eliminate the entire structure are uncommon.

Sometimes, you can request retrospective planning permission. Here, you request it after you’ve built your shed, and the local council will grant it retroactively.

In other cases, you can make minor alterations to bring it into compliance with the approved development criteria. These could include moving it to a more appropriate location or lowering its height.

Can I still sell my house if I don’t acquire planning approval for a shed that isn’t permitted development?

You may have problems selling your house if you do not obtain planning approval for a garden building that does not come under approved development. Structures that violate planning standards may deter potential buyers or cause them to drop their asking price.

Can I connect an approved development shed to the mains electricity?

Most summer buildings built under allowed development have a mains electrical connection. However, permitted development fails to ensure this entitlement. Instead, check with your local building control authorities to determine if you can add cables and sockets under Building Regulations.

Can you sleep in a summer house without planning permission?

The HomeOwners Alliance states that if you plan to use a structure for regular sleeping or as a self-contained living space, such as a granny annexe, you must obtain planning permission and adhere to building regulations. Therefore, you will require the necessary planning permission.

What happens if my building meets some but not all of the approved development rules?

To avoid receiving notifications from the local authority, only build structures that meet all approved development conditions. Nonetheless, you may apply for a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC). These allow you to determine whether your summerhouse’s infringement of planning approval is legal. If so, it can stay standing.

Is allowed development applicable to pre-built buildings?

Yes, permitted development rights remain applicable to pre-built sheds.

What shed construction materials are allowed under permitted development rights?

Permitted development rights apply regardless of what materials you employ to build your summerhouse. As a result, you can use classic wood slats, metal, or brick as desired.

The above advice is given in good faith based on my understanding of planning requirements after 45 years in the garden building business. As I say always double check with your local planning officers to be 100% sure.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Planning Summer Houses

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  • Can you sleep in a summer house without planning permission?

    Sleeping in a summer house without planning permission may not be permissible, as regulations regarding temporary dwellings vary by location. It is important to consult local regulations to determine the legality of overnight stays in a summer house. Failure to obtain the necessary permissions could result in legal consequences. It is advised to seek guidance from local authorities to ensure compliance with regulations before using a summer house for sleeping purposes.
  • Do I Need Planning Permission for a Summerhouse?

    When considering the installation of a summerhouse on your property, it is essential to determine whether planning permission is required. Regulations regarding the need for planning permission can vary based on factors such as the structure's size, location, and intended use. In many cases, it may be considered a permitted development and not require planning permission if it meets specific criteria. However, it is advisable to check with your local planning authority to confirm the exact requirements in your area before proceeding with the installation of a summerhouse.
  • Why do neighbours complain about summer houses?

    Neighbours complain about summerhouses in the UK due to restrictions on shed height and placement, which can obstruct views and sunlight, impacting the neighbourhood's aesthetics. Concerns about being used for unauthorised activities, such as living quarters or businesses without proper permits, contribute to neighbour complaints. Noise pollution from DIY projects or parties can also be a source of frustration for nearby residents. In summary, complaints in the UK often revolve around visual disruption, unauthorised use, and noise disturbances, prompting neighbours to voice their grievances to local authorities.

About Author:

Robin Antill is an established authority in the field of quality garden building manufacturing, boasting over four decades of experience. Having founded Titan Garden Buildings in 1979, he demonstrated a commitment to excellence from the outset by moving away from subpar materials and embarking on crafting buildings of superior quality.

His lineage of craftsmanship, traced back to his father and grandfather's business in Cleethorpes, underscores his dedication to quality and customer satisfaction. Robin's son, Craig, who joined the business in 1990, brings additional expertise, having honed his skills at Guildford College in joinery.

Together, they elevated Titan Garden Buildings, which eventually evolved into 1st Choice Leisure Buildings. Their enduring focus on premium materials, top-notch manufacturing, and unparalleled customer service, along with Craig's digital acumen in creating the company's online presence, showcase their expertise and reliability in the industry.

Robin’s expertise was featured in Realtor.com, Homes&Gardens, The London Economic, and dozens other publications.

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