Want your own home office? Don’t forget these planning considerations

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Planning Law on Monday, June 1st, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a seismic shift in the way we live and work in just a few short months. Many businesses have realised that they can successfully work from home, while some are even thinking of shutting their offices permanently and asking their staff to work remotely full time.  

It’s not surprising, then, that after months of making do at their kitchen table, many more people are now looking into creating a home office. There are, however, a number of planning considerations to take into account.

An office… in your garden?

One option might be to construct an outbuilding in your garden to give you a quiet, private space to work. This could be achieved via permitted development, which allows you to construct buildings within your ‘curtilage’ (i.e. the land surrounding your property) to accommodate a use which is ‘ancillary’ to the main house as a dwelling. In other words, you could construct a home office in your garden without sacrificing any space in your home. It could also be psychologically beneficial, enabling you to distinguish much more easily between ‘work’ and ‘home’.

As usual, there are exceptions

Whilst permitted development rules do allow you to erect an outbuilding without planning permission, there are a variety of exemptions, restrictions and conditions that may mean you’ll require it. As such, it’s always wise to seek professional legal advice.

For example, there are rules on the maximum height your outbuilding can be without needing planning permission. These rules depend on how close your outbuilding will be to the boundary/fence between you and your neighbour.

  • If over 2m away from the boundary, the building can be up to 4m tall with a dual pitched roof and 3m tall with any other roof.
  • If closer than 2m to the boundary, the building can be up to 2.5m tall

It depends how you use it

How you use your outbuilding will also determine whether you need planning permission. If you use it to work from home, whilst being employed by an organisation that has changed its working practices to allow home working, you may not need it. If you’re running your own business and using it as a business premises, with clients coming to and from your home (e.g. a beauty salon), you’ll definitely need planning permission as it is not ‘ancillary’ to the use of your main house.

If you’re using the office full-time as the only space from which you run your business, it’s much more likely you’ll have to apply for planning permission.

What about a home office actually in my home?

Working inside your house is also permissible – provided the activity undertaken remains ancillary to the use of the main house as a residential property. Any business activity beyond what is considered ancillary might require a ‘change of use’ to the property. There would then be two main uses, a residential use mixed with office use. The main test for working out whether your business will be ancillary is whether the overall character of your property will change as a result of your business operations. For example, if a substantial proportion of the house will be given over to office use, there is a significant increase in traffic/visitors to and from the property, or your business is likely to disturb neighbours at unreasonable hours, then you’ll require planning permission.

Consult the experts

The working world has changed rapidly, and we need to be prepared for whatever it will throw at us next. If you’re thinking of working from home more often in a post-coronavirus world, then you’ll need a planning expert on side to guide you through the legalities and ensure you stay within the law. Contact our Head of Planning, Salvatore Amico, on 0203 871 0039 or email salvatore.amico@attwaters.co.uk.

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