Planning Consultant - Chris Scott
Hi, I’m Chris,
I hold an MA in Planning and work as a Planning Consultant

When it comes to garages there are lots of different circumstances involved which dictate whether you need planning permission. For instance, you may have an existing garage which you wish to convert into additional living space. Alternatively, you may simply wish to construct a new garage on your property for your car or storage purposes. Whether you need planning permission for the works will depend on several variables. Some of the circumstances stated above can come under permitted development rights, where others will require a householder planning application. Below I’ll try to provide several examples, however, each real-world scenario normally has its own circumstances which need attention.

Garages and Permitted Development Rights (PD)

It is possible to construct a garage under permitted development rights, provided it is not forward of the principal elevation of your property. The principal elevation is (generally) determined by the walls of the property which face the public highway. So as a general rule to comply with PD, the garage can be off to the side of the dwelling. Potentially even behind the property if there is access. However, there are several other limitations in terms of the size and height of the garage.

No more than 50% of the area within the curtilage of the dwelling (not including the original dwelling) can be developed. If the garage is to be constructed with a mono pitched roof the maximum height is 3m, with a pitched roof its 4m. The exception is if the garage would be positioned within 2m of the property boundary, then the maximum height is limited to 2.5m.

More than One Garage Within The Same Curtilage?

This is where things can get tricky. There are cases where multiple garages have been constructed on a property. The individual believes they are still complying with the 50% PD rule. While this may be the case, the PD rules also state that all outbuildings need to be ‘incidental‘ to the main dwelling. There have been appeals against the refusal of Lawful Development Certificates for additional garages which the Planning Inspectorate have dismissed. The appeals were dismissed on the basis additional garage space is not ‘reasonably’ required for a single dwelling. This provides an example of why with PD development it’s still best to check with a Lawful Development Certificate. You can find out if the works will be considered PD by the Local Authority/Planning Inspectorate.

Timber Garage Planning Permission
More than two garages on one dwelling may not be interpreted as permitted development – Image: Passmores.co.uk

Garages and Planning Permission

If it’s not possible to construct the garage under PD here are a few tips when applying for planning permission. Investigate if there are other garages within your street which are forward of the buildings principle elevation. If not, you may get resistance from the local authority to approve the application due to the disruption of the building line or street scene. To try and mitigate the impact of the garage on the street scene. Keep the proposed height and general mass/scale to a minimum. Furthermore, try and propose materials that will complement the street scene instead of being in contrast to it.

Timber Garage Street Scene Planning Permission
Will a timber garage compliment the street scene of the area? Image: Passmores.co.uk

If you know that you will require planning permission for the garage as it will not come under PD, then it might be a good idea to ask your local authority for some pre-application advice. Furthermore, searching for planning permissions around your local area for garages can provide useful insight into what to expect with your own planning application.

Converting an Existing Attached Garage into Additional Living Space

So let’s say for instance you have a garage which was included/attached as part of the original dwelling. You may now feel that this space could be better utilised as additional living space. For instance, it could be used to extend the size of your kitchen or create a downstairs toilet/bedroom etc. A garage conversion of this kind can often be completed under permitted development rights, provided the works do follow the rules of the current 2015 General Permitted Development Order (GDPO). Which includes:

  • Works do not protrude forward of the principal elevation, no bay windows for instance.
  • Materials (brickwork, windows, doors) used to fill in where the garage door was will match the existing dwellings materials or are deemed similar.
Garage Conversion to Kitchen Diner
Garage conversion into kitchen diner. Image: homebuilding.co.uk

However, some properties cannot benefit from permitted development rights as they may have been removed. Therefore it is often a good idea to have your plans drawn up and to submit a Lawful Development Certificate to your local authority for the proposed works before you start. The cost of this application is half that of a householder planning application, therefore currently it’s £103.

What About Converting a Detached Garage into Additional Living Space?

In this scenario, you would need to complete a householder planning application. Furthermore, various other factors will come into play, such as the relevant local plan/core strategy and local planning policies. For instance, linking a previously detached garage to a dwelling will increase the floor area of the dwelling. Local policies may place restrictions on what percentage increase over the original dwelling is deemed acceptable.

Furthermore, there may be local policies on the minimum number of car parking spaces a dwelling requires. For a three to four bed dwelling its quite common to see a local planning policy request sufficient space for two to three vehicles. Therefore you may need to consider converting part of the front garden into additional parking.

What About Converting a Detached Garage into a Separate Family Annexe?

Garage to family annexe conversion
Garage to family annexe conversion. Image: homebuilding.co.uk

Under permitted development rights it’s not possible to convert a detached garage into a family annexe, it would require planning permission. There may be resistance from the local authority towards such an application, particularly if the property is located in the Greenbelt for instance. To secure planning permission its best to propose as little alteration to the exterior of the garage as possible. Limiting the amount of glazing/fenestration introduced is one example. Depending on the position of the garage and neighbouring properties there maybe amenity issues to consider. Therefore obscured glazing may be required to mitigate these issues. Also, don’t be surprised if the local authority upon approval attaches a condition to the garage conversion for family use only.

Conclusions – Do I Need Planning Permission For a Garage?

The location, size and use of the garage are all relevant factors which will dictate whether you will require planning permission. If you need assistance with your project please send me a message and we can discuss your proposals. It may be worth looking at the planning history of your property to see if the garage has a planning condition which restricts it’s used for storage of a vehicle. Thanks for reading! 🙂