If you want to build a house anywhere in the UK, it’s important to get planning permission first. If you don’t, you can find yourself facing problems, fines and serious costs. You may even find you have to tear down your structure if permission isn’t granted.
So if you’re asking yourself, “How do I get planning permission to build a house in my garden?”, you’ve come to the right place!
Read on for everything you need to know about gaining planning permission. And check out our nine top tips to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.
How to Win Planning Permission on a Garden Plot
1. Be realistic about your chances of success
Before investing time and money planning your build, you want to know there’s a reasonable prospect of getting planning permission. So how can you evaluate your chances of success?
A good place to start is by looking at your local planning authority’s policies. Depending on where you live, your planning authority will be your local county, metropolitan or unitary council.
If you’re not sure which council that is, search online. Lots of websites allow you to identify your planning authority by simply typing in your postcode.
All local planning authorities have to identify a five-year supply of land in their areas to build new housing. If your council hasn’t been able to identify sufficient land, your chances of getting permission to build in your garden improve.
If you’re in an area that’s already got lots of residential dwellings, your chances of success improve again. But if yours is the only house for miles, and your council has already identified enough land for new housing, you’re likely to face an uphill struggle.
That doesn’t mean you can’t try. But think carefully about how much emotional and financial capital you’re prepared to invest in the task.
And don’t be tempted to go ahead and present your planning authority with a fait accompli. They will be entirely unmoved by how much money you have sunk into your build. If they don’t think planning permission is appropriate for the site, it won’t be granted.
You’ll then have the frustration and expense of having to return the site to its original condition.
2. Make sure there’s enough space for the house
Don’t try to squeeze a house onto a space that isn’t big enough for it. Engaging an architect early on will help you get a feel for what’s possible within the constraints of your site.
That can also help you to decide whether the development will make sense financially. If you want to be able to achieve the price for a three-bedroom home, you need the room to do it.
Again, it’s important to be realistic. A dwelling that has too big a footprint for the land it’s on is a classic reason for authorities to refuse planning permission. And if your area is full of bungalows, your chances of getting permission for a four-storey tower are exceedingly slim.
3. Make sure the design fits the character of the area
Planners generally like designs that fit the character of the area where they’re going to be built. That’s particularly the case for houses in gardens, where it’s likely the new dwelling will be close to other buildings.
Of course, what “fits” can be very subjective. Taking the time to develop a good relationship with your local planning officer can be invaluable here.
They are the person who will recommend whether or not the plans should be approved. And they may be able to advise on the kinds of designs that find favour with local councillors.
Wherever possible, involve your architect in these discussions too. That will mean you’re well placed to agree a design that fits your needs and wins planning permission.
4. Consider your neighbours
If there are other houses near your garden, think about what the development will mean for your neighbours. Are there going to be any windows that could look into their house or garden? Will the new building block out light or interfere with a scenic view?
The question of what is and isn’t a planning issue can be open to interpretation. No-one has a right to a particular view, for example. But if your new house will overlook your neighbour’s home, it might be considered a loss of amenity. And that is a planning issue.
In any case, if you’re going to be staying in your current home, your neighbours will still be next-door. Doing what you can to avoid disputes will make everyone’s life more pleasant.
Keep them informed of your plans – the earlier you can share your ideas, the better. With goodwill on both sides, and a creative architect, there’s usually a way to resolve most issues.
And you’ll minimize the chances of your neighbours formally objecting to your development receiving planning permission.
5. Think about the wildlife on your building plot
Any building inevitably imposes on the existing environment. Take steps to mitigate those impacts, and you’ll have a much better chance of getting planning permission.
If you’re planning to build on an environmentally sensitive site, you’re may need to spend serious time and money on this. And if your garden plays host to protected species of plants or animals, you’ll almost certainly require an ecological survey.
It’s sometimes possible to find ways of proceeding with your build without disturbing wildlife. But that can mean extra expense.
You’ll also need to consider any trees on your building plot. If they are protected, you’ll need to leave them alone. And even if they’re not, cutting down trees often upsets both neighbours and councillors.
if there are trees on the land you’re planning to build on, it’s well worth getting a tree survey. That will tell you about their significance, as well as their health.
If the trees aren’t ecologically significant, there’s nothing to stop you chopping them down. And if they’re in poor health, you can appease your neighbours by explaining you’re simple hastening their demise.
If you do need to cut down any trees – and you’re allowed to do so – consider how you can incorporate new trees in your design. They can greatly improve the aesthetics of a new build, helping you achieve a better price.
You’ll also be creating a more pleasant environment that everyone can enjoy. And that will go a long way to improving your chances of getting planning permission.
6. Make sure you have proper drainage
Climate change and increasingly dense development means that flooding is becoming an ever more serious problem across the UK. The more land is built on, the less rainfall can drain naturally into the ground, exacerbating the problem.
Councils will look very seriously at the drainage of any new development when deciding whether to grant planning permission. If there’s a public sewer near the house, wastewater can drain into that. if not, you’ll need to provide an on-site solution.
The longer rainwater stays on your property before draining to a sewer, the better. There are lots of options to achieve this, from water butts to green rooftops and porous paving.
A sustainable system for handling your property’s drainage needs will greatly improve your chances of gaining planning permission.
7. Ensure there’s good access to and from the site
The rules around vehicular access to developments vary from place to place.
In some cases – particularly built-up areas where air pollution is a problem – councils require new developments not to provide parking. The idea is to reduce the number of cars on the roads, and to encourage people to cycle or use public transport instead.
In other places, particularly remote areas where a car is a practical necessity, there may be minimum parking requirements.
And if your plot is next to a road, you may be required to provide space for a car to turn around. That will mean that drivers don’t need to reverse into traffic.
Consult your architect, who will be able to advise on the requirements in your area.
8. Communicate, communicate, communicate
You may be the one building a house, but gaining planning permission means getting other people on board too. Good communication – and, where necessary, tact and diplomacy – are your most effective weapons in getting a successful result.
Remember that your neighbours can make life difficult for you if they choose – so don’t give them a reason. Inform them of your plans at an early stage, and be ready to talk through any concerns.
Involve your architect and be prepared to be flexible. There’s no point in sticking to your guns on a design that will never succeed in getting planning permission.
Take the time to get to know your ward councillor and local planning officer too. Keep them in touch on what you’re doing, and ask their advice as you develop your plans. They will often be able to give you valuable intelligence on how to successfully address any concerns.
Proper planning is the key to success
We hope you’ve enjoyed our top tips to get planning permission to build a house in your garden.
Arm yourself with an understanding of local planning policies to gauge your chances of success. And if you judge it’s worth going ahead, engage a good architect who can help you navigate the planning system.
Keep your neighbours, planning officer and ward councillor informed from the outset, and you’ll go a long way to avoiding problems. And be prepared to be flexible with your plans to get the right result.
Good luck with your project!