New planning rights are being introduced on 1 April 2021, which will make it easier to provide storage for bikes in residential and business premises.

The various lockdowns of 2020 resulted in a sharp increase in the number of people involved in active travel.  For example, statistics released by Cycling Scotland for the period March to August 2020, demonstrate that 43% more people were cycling in Scotland compared to the same period in 2019.

The Scottish Government is keen to further encourage the use of bikes as a means of travel, particularly as part of its strategy to achieve the net zero greenhouse gas emission target, and in improving health in support of the Active Scotland Delivery Plan.

Barriers to active travel

The lack of secure facilities to store a bike or scooter discourages people from considering active travel as a means of transport.

The current (pre 1 April 2021) rules give householders the opportunity to erect storage facilities without having to obtain planning permission, but not people living in flats.  The drawback is obvious – the majority of flats are in the very urban areas where the advantages of encouraging cycle use are strongest.

The solution is to expand permitted development rights, which remove the requirement to apply for planning permission, avoiding cost and delay.

Why are the changes needed?

Under current permitted development rights, only householders in detached, semi-detached and terraced houses can erect storage sheds large enough for bikes and scooters as long as the sheds are not in front of the principal elevation.  Planning permission is required for storage sheds to the front of the house, or to the side of a house if the side fronts a road.  The rules differ for conservation areas, which is also an obstacle as there are almost 600 conservation areas in Scotland.

What are the changes?

(These comments are intended as a guide only; the full picture can only be obtained by looking at the wording of the statutory provisions).

Erection of storage in the front gardens of houses and flats

The changes will see the current permitted development rights extended to allow all householders to erect bike/scooter stores at the front of their properties.  This will include owners of flats with their own private garden space, and will allow those living in flatted properties with private garden space to erect communal storage sheds within the curtilage of the flat block.

The maximum dimensions for sheds in the front gardens of residential properties will be 1.5 metres high, 1.2 metres deep and 2.5 metres wide.

Storage in Conservation Areas

Presently, in a conservation area, a shed with a floorspace of more than 4 sqm needs consent, even in the rear or side garden.  Following the changes, the new permitted development rights afforded to houses and flats will be extended to conservation areas, and the maximum footprint of a shed that can be erected in the rear garden of a house in a conservation area under the new rights will increase from 4 sqm to 8 sqm.

Communal Storage

To give residents of flats without a private external garden space the ability to secure ground level storage of bikes, the new permitted development rights will allow communal cycle stores to be erected to the rear of a block of flats.  There will be no restriction on the size, materials or design/colour of the permitted stores.

The erection of communal cycle stores in the curtilage of offices, commercial and industrial buildings will also be permitted under the new changes.

Cycle Hangers

Lastly, the changes will introduce new permitted development rights to allow cycle stores to be erected on public roads (known as 'cycle hangars'). The idea being that secure, covered cycle storage at public locations, which do not require planning permission, will encourage the use of bikes and e-bikes, and allow for their integration within the urban environment.  The maximum dimensions for on-street cycle stores will be 1.5m high, 2.5m deep and 5m wide.


The days of squeezing past a bike stored in a hallway of a flatted block may well be behind us with the new permitted development rights for storage.  It will be interesting to see how well advertised the changes are nationally to allow members of the public to understand that these storage options are available to them, and also whether the lack of restrictions in relation to size and design specification will prompt any difficulties going forwards.

These changes only apply to planning rules – ownership/title restrictions might still be an obstacle.

Separately, Aberdeenshire Council is currently seeking volunteers to participate in a 12-month study into travel behaviour change.  The Council is looking for six households from across Aberdeenshire willing to replace some or all private car journeys with more active or sustainable modes of travel. The Project is being funded by the 'Smarter Choices, Smarter Places' programme funded by the Scottish charity, 'Paths for All'.  It will be interesting to see the outcome of this research.