As the nation observes key government advice to "stay at home" in the fight against the COVID-19 virus, the home improvement sector has reported bumper online sales.

Certainly, as I venture out on my daily run, with the sounds of power drills and lawnmowers emanating from many a back garden and shed, such trends ring true.

Before wielding a hammer, though, it is worth bearing in mind that planning restrictions may apply depending on the scale and nature of the works that you are undertaking.

Key planning issues that can catch improvements in the home and garden include:

  • Building a shed or summerhouse - planning permission may be required depending on the size and height of the building; the size of the garden; and the distance from the property boundary. Broadly, structures over 4 metres in height and covering ground greater than 50% of the original garden area (so taking account of any areas on which an extension or existing shed may already have been built) will require formal consent.
  • Fences, walls and gates below 2 metres in height are permitted; for taller structures planning permission will likely be required.
  • A raised platform will require planning permission if the level of any part of it is more than 50cm in height. As a result, decking and verandas (or even a relatively tame tree house) may require planning permission if it is 50cm or more off the ground.
  • While pruning trees and shrubs is generally permitted, some trees receive greater legal protection. For those covered by a Tree Protection Order (typically ancient or particularly mature specimens) you cannot cut down - or in fact carry out any works to trees at all - without first obtaining consent from the local planning authority. If the trees in your garden are affected by a TPO, it should be registered on your title deeds so you can check the position with your conveyancing solicitor.
  • In conservation areas, for any works to trees with a trunk diameter of 75mm or greater you first need to give the planning authority 6 weeks' notice. During this time the planning authority can decide whether any restrictions need to be imposed on the tree works. But if you hear nothing further, at the end of the 6-week period you can proceed directly with the works.
  • Greater restrictions apply to flats, listed buildings and properties in conservation areas more generally. We've blogged previously about the home owner who fell foul of the planning system for her bold choice of exterior paint...

It's worth emphasising that maintenance, repairs and odd jobs are rarely restricted - so there's limited excuses available for procrastinating! But if your plans are more ambitious, it may be worth running the details past your local planning department (and, potentially, any neighbours out of courtesy) before getting started on that DIY project.


Victoria Lane

Senior Associate