Do you need planning permission for a garage? What you need to know

A garage with wooden garage doors and white render exterior
(Image credit: Getty)

Working out whether you need planning permission for a garage is a sensible starting point when looking at whether to build one for your home.

Planning law states that you can’t do any building work to or around your house unless a specific rule says you can. So it’s important to know what those rules are before constructing any new structure on your land, including a garage.

Here our planning expert Simon Rix explains answers the core questions that should help you determine whether you can build your garage under permitted development rules or whether you need formal planning permission, as well as how you could tweak your plans to avoid needing to apply. 

Please note, the below applies to detached garages only, as one that is attached to your home would come under permitted development rules for extensions instead.

Do you need planning permission for a garage?

This depends on a couple of factors, first off — what type of home you have. If your home is a flat or a maisonette you will need planning permission but if your home is a detached, bungalow, semi-detached or possibly even a terraced house you could potentially build a garage under permitted development rules.

However, to do so, your garage will need to meet certain criteria to be regarded as permitted development (PD), which is where you are deemed to have already been granted planning permission by the national PD rules.

If it doesn’t meet these rules, you’ll have to make a formal application for planning consent. This should normally not be a problem, but it’s a set of hoops you’ll need to jump through to stay legal, and a planning consultant will be able to help with this.

If you think your project does come under PD rules, but you want to be cast-iron sure, you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate to get a legally binding confirmation from your local planning authority that what you want to do really doesn’t need planning consent.

How big can I build my garage without planning?

To use permitted development rights and avoid a planning application, your garage would need to be no more than one storey high. That means you’d need to keep the:

  • eaves height to 2.5 metres or less 
  • and the overall height cannot be more than 4 metres for a dual pitched roof 
  • or no more than 3 metres for any other roof, including flat roofs and single pitched sloping roofs.

However, if your garage would be within two metres of any curtilage boundary for your house, then the maximum total height for PD rights is 2.5 metres. A curtilage boundary is not necessarily your ownership boundary, it could be the boundary between your garden and another piece of land that you own that’s connected to it.

In terms of horizontal size, to use PD rights no more than half the area of land around the house as it was on 1 July 1948 (or when it was first built if it’s newer than that) can be covered by additions or other buildings, including the garage you want to build.

Do I need planning permission for a garage if I live in a protected area?

If you want to build a garage more than 20 metres from your house and you are in a National Park, the Broads, an Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or within a World Heritage Site area, then you will need to apply for planning permission if the maximum area to be covered by buildings (including your new garage), or any enclosures, containers or pools will be more than 10 square metres in size in total.

If your house is in any of the areas listed above, or a conservation area, then you can’t use permitted development rights for a garage on the side of your house either.

There are other areas where PD rights have been removed. You can ask your planning consultant if you are in one of these 'Article 4 Direction' zones.

Can I build a garage under permitted development and then use it for something else?

Planning permission is not just about structures, it’s about the use of those structures as well. 

If your projects meets the size and other permitted development criteria, you also need to meet the use criteria. This means that it needs to be used for purposes ancillary to the use of the main house. 

Ancillary uses include storage of a car, of course, but also things like housing bikes, scooters and even your tumble dryer. If you want to set up carpentry business run out the garage, or use the space to repair other people’s cars as a commercial operation, these uses are not ancillary to the main house, and so you would need planning consent.

Can I build a garage in front of my house?

You will not be able to build a garage under permitted development rights as this stipulates that you can’t build on land forward of any wall forming the principal elevation of your house. 

You could potentially still build a garage in front of your house but only by successfully securing planning permission to do so.

Do I need planning permission for a garage if I live on a corner plot?

Your house may have two principal elevations if it is situated on a corner plot. This means you are likely to need to submit a planning application if you want to build a garage in front of either of these principle elevations. Each principle elevation would be each side of your home that faces the road so you would not be able to build a garage forward of either principle elevation without formal planning consent.

You could however potentially still build a garage towards the rear of your property or a side that is not a principle elevation under permitted development.

Do I need planning permission for a garage if I live in a barn conversion?

There are some caveats to permitted development rights and one of them is with barn conversions. And even then, these caveats do not always apply.

If your home is a barn conversion that was built in its entirety with planning permission, permitted developments could apply when building a garage. However, if your barn conversion was consented via permitted development rights, then you would need planning permission for a garage.

If you believe you can build a garage under permitted development, it's probably worth securing a Lawful Development Certificate.

Do I need planning permission for a garage if I live in a listed building?

Yes, if you are in a listed building, you will need both planning consent and listed building consent. You cannot build a garage under permitted development rules with a listed building.

Do I need building regulations for my garage?

If your garage is detached and built under permitted development, ie it is under 30 square metres, you will not need building regulations signoff. 

However, you will need building control signoff if your garage is attached to your house, if your garage has sleeping accommodation or if it is over 30 square metres. It's always worth giving your building control department at your local council a call to double check if you are unsure. 

Simon Rix

Simon Rix is a professional planning consultant, who began his career working in local government in the 1990s. He was a council officer and later an elected councillor, so he knows how the planning system works from both sides. He went on to set up Planix.UK Planning Consultants Ltd; a consultancy company that advises self builders, home extenders and those taking on small to medium-sized building projects on planning permission.