Garden office - planning permission required or not?

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On the face of it - and from the information I've found online - we're going to need permission. We live in the bottom two stories of a four storey Victorian semi and would like to build a garden office at the bottom of the garden. The top two storeys are a separate flat which has its own share of the garden. So it seems we fall foul of the flat/maisonette rule.....

However, I've recently bought the upstairs flat so between us we now own the whole building (my partner is the owner of the downstairs flat where we've lived for the past 5 years). We won't be re-converting the house back into a single property - the plan is to let out the upstairs flat once it's been renovated. But the upstairs flat will not have any access to the garden and we will be changing the deeds to reflect this.

If it makes any difference, the local authority is the freeholder of both flats - but we will be buying the freehold.
 
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Because of the risks involved, I agree with FMT that the simplest route is to apply for planning permission.

But actually it's not as clear cut as FMT suggests. While the subdivision of a house into flats is a material change of use, its re-amalgamation isn't - unless your LPA considers loss of resi units 'material'! So, in theory you can re-amalgamate the property under PD, build the studio under PD (subject to GPDO provisions), and then apply to subdivide the house again!
 
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