A question we often get asked is “Do I need planning permission”? Usually, this is aimed at our log cabins, sometimes our larger garden sheds and, in one memorable conversation, at our compost bins…

With the current economic climate and ‘difficult’ housing market, many of us would rather improve than move by adding a wooden garden building such as a log cabin or workshop. That makes perfect sense: your garden has the greatest potential to provide you with the additional leisure or working space you’ve always wanted. Also, a garden log cabin will likely add value to your property for a relatively small investment compared to an extension to your house and with significantly less disruption.

And a log cabin as your garden office could benefit your employer too. A survey by the Internet communications giant, Skype, found that working from home is becoming more common. It also found that working this way is increasingly accepted by managers and more sought-after by employees - of the 1,000 homeworkers surveyed by Skype, 56% believed they were more productive at home than in a traditional office environment.

So whether you want a garden gym to work on your body for that beach holiday, a summerhouse that provides a sanctuary from the hurly burly of domestic life or a garden office, log cabins offer you a lot of opportunities.

But what of that all-important planning permission? 

Do I need planning permission?

The good news is that the majority of garden buildings, including log cabins, are permitted development in which case you don’t need to worry about obtaining planning permission*.

Guidelines for outbuildings

Planning permission rules governing outbuildings apply to larger garden sheds and log cabins as well as other ancillary garden buildings such as saunas, garden gyms, summerhouses and many other kinds of structure designed ‘for a purpose incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling house’.

The criteria for erecting a log cabin or other garden building under permitted development are reasonably straightforward - planning permission need only be sought if your intended structure is large (see below) or is to be used as a habitable space.

For example, running a water supply to your log cabin would not necessarily require planning permission though it could be argued that this allows the building to be ‘self-contained’ and available to be used as a habitable space.

This issue is really worth talking over with your local planning office as some degree of flexibility is allowed here. A small shower room in a garden gym, for example, is not going to need planning permission. Nor is a tap for a garden hose. However, a built-in kitchen or a bedroom with an en-suite bathroom is likely to raise a few eyebrows in your local planning office!

Generally speaking, outbuildings are considered to be permitted development i.e. not needing planning permission, if they meet the following conditions:

  1. The structure is not to be built on land forward of a wall forming the principal elevation of the dwelling house. In loose terms, principal elevation usually means the wall of the house that contains the front door.
  2. The structure is single storey. 
  3. For a dual pitched roof, the height to the eaves cannot exceed 2.5 metres and the overall height cannot go above 4 metres. For a flat roof building the height to the eaves must be no more than 2.5 metres and the overall height must not exceed 3 metres.
  4. If the outbuilding is within two metres of a boundary then the maximum height cannot exceed 2.5 metres. In Scotland, the outbuilding should also be at least 5 metres from your home. 
  5. If the floor area of the building is between 15 and 30 square metres there should be at least 1 metre to any boundary to comply with building regulations
  6. If the floor area of the building is less than 15 square metres it can be sited close to a boundary. It is advisable though to allow a minimum gap of ½ metre between the building and the boundary for access and maintenance. 
  7. The outbuilding must not itself be a separate, self-contained living accommodation (and must not have a microwave antenna). 
  8. No more than half the area of land around the "original house"* should be covered by additions or other buildings. i.e. the outbuilding should take up less than 50% of the garden surrounding the house. In Scotland this figure is 30%. 
  9. No raised platforms over 300mm. A raised platform is defined as anything more than 300mm above ground level- measured at the highest point and includes decking. Also beware that the 50% rule above will also apply to decking so factor that into your design.
  10. The above list should give you a good idea if the log cabin you’re buying or building falls within permitted development for your intended use. However, it’s always a good idea to phone your local planning office to discuss your ideas even if you think you don’t need planning permission. You may be surprised how helpful they are!

If you do need planning permission…

If you think you need planning permission then your local planning office can offer pre-application advice. These are usually short and informal meetings and free of charge.

Remember that the more information you can supply them with, the less chance there will be any issues arising once your project has been submitted for planning permission. Site plans, orientation, the dimensions and photographs or drawings of your proposed building would be useful to have to hand at a pre-application meeting as well as demonstrating that you are familiar with the planning rules relating to your intended outbuilding. Alternatively, contact your local planning authority in writing. Responses vary, but allow up to two weeks.

Planning permission timescales vary from council to council but it usually takes between 8-10 weeks to receive a decision on your application. Expect to pay between £150-200 for submitting a planning permission application.

Some final words of advice

Irrespective of whether your lovely new garden building is permitted development or requires planning permission, it’s worthwhile discussing your plans with your neighbours before starting your build or approaching your planning office with an application.

If your neighbours have any (reasonable) objections, that’s the best time to find out what they are and to address them through discussion. You’ll be amazed at how often an issue that might have upset a neighbour or been raised formally by them with the planning office, simply disappears over a quick conversation across your garden fence!

Useful links on planning permission

For further information on planning permission for garden outbuildings, visit the government Planning Portal (which also has a very useful interactive guide):


DirectGov also has some good information and links on general planning permission:


If you live in Scotland then visit the General Permitted Development Scotland website:


* This blog post is a general guide on planning permission and is not meant to be a definitive source of legal information. We advise you to contact your local planning authority before undertaking any work.