Do you need planning permission for a garden office?

Having a garden office seems like a great idea. It’s space saving in the house itself and you will feel like you have actually left the house, helping to separate work and life in your mindset; however, you won’t have to deal with any of the stresses of commuting, and will save money on transport and eating out. 

However, there are some legal issues that you must consider before opening your garden office. Planning permission isn’t always necessary, but it is crucial to know when it is to prevent any unexpected fines. 

This guide will take you through exactly when you need planning permission for a garden office, and how to obtain it!

Do you need planning permission for a garden office?

What is planning permission? 

If you have never done any modifications to your house before, you might be wondering this. Planning permission is simply the act of obtaining permission from your local council about whether you can build, adapt or modify part of a building. 

Planning permission isn’t always necessary. It depends on how tall the building is and how you will be using the building. 

Generally, planning permission for garden offices focuses on how said office will impact your neighbours. If a building will obstruct their view, cause them to lose light or increase the shade in their garden, planning permission is likely to need to be required. 

Generally, a building that is no more than 2.5 metres tall in total is permitted anywhere in gardens. These could be offices, sheds or other buildings. If it is taller, it must be further away from the neighbour’s fence. 

Planning permission for garden offices

Garden offices are likely to be more than 2.5 metres tall, for human comfort. If they are used 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, they are also more likely to require planning permission; as the constant use may be a disruption to neighbours in their gardens. If you by some chance have an under 2.5 metres tall building that you will only use as a garden office once in a while, you might be able to get away without planning permission. 

However, it is important to remember that this is all subjective. If you get complaints from your neighbours and you hadn’t applied for planning permission, planning officers will come round and tell you to take it down – and it could result in further legal action. 

Therefore, to build any new garden office, it is probably recommended to acquire planning permission or at least seek advice from the local council. 

What if my garden office meets the permitted development requirements? 

As mentioned previously in the article, there are permitted development requirements that mean that some buildings can be put up in gardens. These include structures like sheds or summerhouses. You might wonder if you can just put up a summerhouse and work in there occasionally. 

Summerhouses and sheds are thought of as ‘incidental’ buildings and are generally used for activities that wouldn’t take place in the house, such as gardening tool storage or a place for enjoying the sun. Even a kid’s playhouse could be seen as ‘incidental’, as the purpose of the building is for the child to pretend they have a house; this wouldn’t happen inside the main house. 

However, using a summerhouse as a separate room, whether that be a bedroom, a utility room or a study – or, of course, a garden office – is not generally seen as ‘incidental’. Councils can often interpret these rules in different ways and if for some reason you end up with a visit from the planning officers it is very difficult to prove that you only use the office for occasional work. 

Contacting the authorities is, therefore, highly advised when planning a garden office. If you are following all the procedures, it is highly likely that your application will be accepted and received well; councils are keen to encourage people to spend more time in their garden and that includes working in your garden. It is just important to do it as officially as you can.

Main Criteria for Outbuildings

To ensure that your application is accepted, take a look at this list of criteria for outbuildings. Other buildings can be accepted, but if you make sure that your garden office sticks to this list, you’ll have more of a chance of getting the all-important planning permission. This list applies for households in England and Wales. 

  • Outbuildings should enhance the enjoyment of the house
  • The outbuilding should not be in front of the house
  • It should be single storey
  • The eaves height should be a maximum of 2.5 metres and the overall height a maximum of 4 metres.
  • There are different rules for buildings within National Parks, the Broads, AONBs and World Heritage Sites. 
  • There are different rules for listed buildings. 

How do I apply for planning permission? 

If you are ready to apply for planning permission, you can visit the Planning Portal and lodge an application here. 

Things to remember when applying for planning permission

When applying for planning permission for your garden office, ensure that you think about exactly what will help it get through the screening stages. 

You’ll want to make sure that your office is built with good materials, preferably sound-reducing if possible. It’s important to ensure that it’s in a sensible position – not against any neighbour’s windows or somewhere that will give them a lot of shade – and that it isn’t too big for your garden. As it is to be used as an office, it’s important to make sure that your work is quiet and undisruptive to anyone around. If you will have employees coming into work, they must know that this is a quiet office.

Neighbour’s may complain; but a complaint doesn’t always mean a planning rejection (although it might influence your relationship with said neighbour!). Complaints and disputes are always considered, but the planning officer will judge if they deem them to be reasonable. 

Planning permission typically takes eight weeks to process. Some people think that this is too long to wait; but it’s really crucial that everything is done properly and the paperwork is in place, and this will add to the house’s value when it is eventually sold. You’ll thank yourself for doing everything properly later! 


While it may not be as easy to build your garden office as you may have hoped, planning permission is very easily acquired and you are very likely to get it, just by talking to your council. Planning officers are typically very favourable of garden offices and as long as there are no obvious issues, you are likely to get permission.

You might find that you don’t need permission after speaking to your council, but remember that people have been caught out before by thinking that they do not need permission – so it is always best to confirm. Even if your council says you do not need permission, it will be on record that you checked, so you will be protected if anyone complains! 

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About Melissa

Hey! I'm Mel, I write the occasional article for Spacehop, amongst other things. I love meeting new people and chatting, so if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask.

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