I fancy a garden office. What’s involved? Do I need planning permission?

Property Clinic: I’m thinking of about 40sq m and might even add a games room

When things get back to some kind of normality, I am considering building a home office in my garden. Photograph: iStock

When things get back to some kind of normality, I am considering building a home office in my garden. Photograph: iStock

 

Like many people I am now discovering the joys of working from home – no commute, structured meal breaks and lots more family time. I could get used to this. When things get back to some kind of normality, I am considering building a home office in my garden.

I’m thinking something in the region of 40sq m (430sq ft) and might even add a 40sq m games room, totalling 80sq m (861sq ft) in one building.

The new building will be at the back wall of my garden and I would like a flat roof and to use timber cladding and glass to help the building blend with its surroundings and allow loads of natural light in.

Is this type of shed exempt from planning as it will be for personal use? My brother-in-law says that I will have to use plastered walls to match my house. Can you tell me what are the restrictions around size, planning, use and finishes?

We are all learning that the ways we worked prior to this pandemic may not have been as efficient as we thought. Perhaps this is because the normal interruptions of phone calls, emails and various other “pings” that demand immediate attention are much reduced.

The planning and development regulations allow certain exempt development works to be carried out around the house. With exempt development formal planning permission is not required.

These planning regulations recognise various “classes” of development. Each class of development has conditions and limitations on what is considered acceptable. These are clearly set out in a schedule in the regulations. If one moves beyond these restrictions, the works are no longer exempt and planning permission is required.

Garages and domestic stores or home offices of the type you describe are termed “Class 3” development and are restricted to a floor area of 25sq m (269sq ft) if they are to be deemed exempt development. They must also be used as an ancillary space to your home and are not for commercial use. Therefore, your proposed home office and games room measuring 80sq m will require planning permission.

Construction

The form of construction, flat or pitched roof, and external finish will have an impact in terms of planning, and your application should clearly set out what materials you wish to use. Where possible you should match the materials already used in your home. You should state clearly that the use will be non-commercial and be ancillary to the use of the main house.

Typically, planning authorities will place conditions on permitted development in terms of finishes and materials. This is to ensure the new building matches the house it serves and allows the new structure to blend into its surroundings.

The timber cladding you mention should be acceptable and if used with some elements of render finish to “acknowledge” the finishes used on your house, then a good effect can be achieved. Glass walls and large sliding doors can also be used to great effect to bring the garden “inside” but be careful that extensive glass does not lead to glare or heat gain that may make your workspace uncomfortable.

When normality returns, I suggest you contact your local chartered building surveyor to design your new home office and to compile the planning application on your behalf. Location, orientation, form and finishes should all be carefully considered.

A major benefit of a home office is that you can segregate your work time and home life. – Noel Larkin

Noel Larkin is a chartered building surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland scsi.ie

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