Planning rules may have relaxed for outdoor structures, but check you are still within the law!

Planning rules may have relaxed for outdoor structures, but check you are still within the law!

By Robert Williams, a Partner at GHP Legal

Planning rules have become more relaxed in recent years for outdoor structures such as sheds and summerhouses. However, before putting up any structure it is essential that homeowners ascertain what is permitted and how such a structure might impact on their neighbours. If they don’t, they risk getting into a costly dispute that could affect the value and future sale of their property.

Whilst generally classed as outbuildings that fall under Permitted Development and therefore do not need planning permission, there are certain requirements regarding size and use of a structure. Access and boundaries are further things to check, as you cannot for example build a garage right up to your boundary and then assume it is ok to walk on your neighbour’s side of a shared driveway.

If you decide to remove or replace a fence, or build against a party wall, there are more considerations. Check whose fence and party wall it is, and if you are building within 6m of an adjoining property find out whether you would fall within the Party Wall Act that requires you to serve written notice of your plans on your neighbour.

Even if the outside wall of your structure does not encroach upon neighbouring property you need to make sure the same can be said for a roof overhang and guttering. Failure to do so could result in an injunction and the potential demand for demolition.

Your neighbour also has a right to natural light that you must not impede. This is something that is usually in the title deeds to a property, but even if it isn’t it can become a legal right if the property has enjoyed natural light for 20 years or more.

With climate change and more rain, another hazard to consider is whether you have done anything that could cause flooding on your neighbour’s property. This might be something as simple as paving over a garden to create a driveway, or installing a downpipe that discharges water straight into the ground.

On the other side of the coin, if you have been affected by something your neighbour has built, then do go and see a solicitor who specialises in property disputes.

Robert Williams

Robert Williams

Partner and Complaints Handler

Partner and Head of the Civil Litigation, Personal Injury and Dispute Resolution team in Wrexham