How do we obtain planning permission for a garden plot?

11 March 2017

We are looking at purchasing the bottom of a large garden to build our home on. We would like to build a two storey, four-bed house but are very flexible with regards to style and structural system. The surrounding houses are a mixture of houses, chalet bungalows and bungalows. It is likely to have an overall footprint of about 180m2 (this includes a large double garage/workshop and this size is also not set in stone, we can adjust it if need be). This would leave gardens of well over 100m2 for both the current and new properties.

The new house will be more than 25m away from any of the surrounding houses and any “overlooking” windows will be obscure and for light purposes only. We will also have adequate parking for both properties (the existing one and the new one to be built). In terms of access, there is a 3m wide gap down the side of the existing property, which will allow us access to the new house. Our concern is that it would be a garden development and I have been made aware that councils generally frown upon such.

We have already had pre-planning advice and was informed that the size and style we want should not be much of an issue, but their concern was the amount of “green” which was in the garden. They feared it may cause harm to the local area. But they also noted that the picture they were basing this on was simply a Google Maps screen grab, so likely showed the greenery as being fuller than it actually is, thus would not be able to tell without a site visit.

Short of us obtaining a site visit prior to any planning application, Are there any hints/tip which may help us obtain planning permission? Also, what do the councils class as “harm” and “inappropriate development” in gardens. I cannot seem to find any examples anywhere of what may be classed as harmful or inappropriate development.


Building in a back garden, or so-called ‘backland’ development, can raise difficulties with planning. Key issues tend to be the impact in terms of noise and disturbance of a new access in close proximity to the flanks of the adjoining houses and their private garden areas; overlooking and loss of light and outlook to neighbouring houses and gardens; and harm to the prevailing character of the area.

The council has identified potential harm to character through the loss of greenery, but unless any significant trees are to be lost, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. The wider question of harm to character is inevitably a subjective judgment and much would depend on the prominence of the new house, in terms of its size, height, materials and visibility, amount of screening and the degree to which it would either blend or conflict with the prevailing pattern of housing nearby.

Your council’s Local Plan policies will set out criteria for new development and you should check your project against those criteria. In presenting an application, ensure your drawings look attractive and possibly commission some ‘3D’ images or artists’ impressions, to show how the house would look in its context. If you can also avoid too much in the way of neighbour objections, so much the better.

Mike Dade (Build It expert)

13 March 2017
Our sponsors