Garden shed height

24 Nov 2008
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United Kingdom
Hi all

I am aware of planning restrictions regarding height of sheds.

Does anyone know how "height" is defined? Would this be from "ground level"? For instance, what about a shed built on a steep slope? Or if a shed made to just within height limit was then mounted upon concrete piers?
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Height is measured from the highest existing ground level. Don't know what you're going on about regarding the piers!
Just build the ground up around the proposed shed ;)

Nah as FMT said... it's from ground level, so just take an average.
Hi all,

My understanding is that you should measure the height of the outbuilding with respect to the highest adjoining natural ground level. The main sources that I know that provide more info for this issue are as follows:


Measurement of height:

Article 1(3) of the Town and Country (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (as amended) provides the following definition of “height”:

“Unless the context otherwise requires, any reference in this Order to the height of a building or of plant or machinery shall be construed as a reference to its height when measured from ground level; and for the purposes of this paragraph "ground level" means the level of the surface of the ground immediately adjacent to the building or plant or machinery in question or, where the level of the surface of the ground on which it is situated or is to be situated is not uniform, the level of the highest part of the surface of the ground adjacent to it.”

Circular 9/95 (General Development Order Consolidation 1995), Section II (The Permitted Development Order), paragraph 36 provides the following further advice:

“A definition of “ground level” is given in article 1(3). Measurements of height for the purposes of the Order are taken from the highest part of the adjoining land. The measurement should be taken from the “natural” ground level (see Journal of Planning and Environment Law, 1979, p. 491).”

In relation to this issue, the legal resource “The Planning Encyclopaedia” provides the following advice:

“Many of the tolerances of permitted development are defined in terms of height, and para. (3) provides a formula for assessing height. It was introduced in the Town and Country General Development (Amendment) Order 1981 (SI 1981/245) in response to difficulties, following Prengate Properties v Secretary of State for the Environment (1973) 25 P. & C.R. 311, in assessing what was the natural ground level from which to assess height when there was sloping land: see [1979] J.P.L. 491 [1979] J.P.L. 491, where the Secretary of State upheld his inspector's ruling that where a wall was erected on top of a patio area which was already raised some two feet above the ground, the measurement should be from the natural ground area rather than of the wall alone. The formula in the order gives the benefit of doubt to the developer: height may be measured from the highest part of the surface of the ground adjoining the building.”

In relation to this issue, the legal resource “DCP Notes” (section 4.3447) provides the following advice:

“Measuring building height above ground level:
In Part 1 Class E, as noted above, the height of a building must not exceed 4m. in the case of a ridged roof or 3 m. otherwise for it to be permitted development. Height is also a criterion in terms in Class A1(d). where extensions are within 2 m. of a boundary. The GPDO at Article 1(3) states that any reference to the height of a building (or of plant or machinery) shall be construed as a reference to its height when measured from ground level and that "ground level" means the level of the surface of the ground immediately adjacent to the building (or plant or machinery). However, the proviso is made that where the level of the surface of the ground is not uniform, the level of the highest part of the surface of the ground is to be taken. Although the Article does not specifically refer to "natural" ground level, Circular 9/95 para. 36 avers that this is the criterion to be used.”


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Thanks for swift replies. Thank you, lpasengland, you seem to have provided a definitive answer, that could be of much use to later readers of this post.
Thanks Andsally.

The ridiculous thing with all of this is that to find out that it's natural ground level you need to either look at Circular 9/95, which is not available online, or look at the legal resources "Planning Encyclopaedia" or "DCP Online", which are not available unless you pay a serious amount of money. It's not a good reflection on the transparency of the planning system that you can have a question that is so fundamental to the interpretation of permitted development legislation, for which there is no reasonable way for most people to be able to find out the answer ...

This is a fantastic post. Very informative.

There is a new technical guide released that goes some way to explaining the GPDO. A copy can be obtained here: - Technical guidance (Aug 2010).pdf

We are building a small extension. The finished height is 3.05m measured on our land, from the top of the paving, and we have planning approval for 3.00m. Our neighbours have complained as the height of the wall in their garden is 3.25m (their ground level is lower). They want the wall reduced by 25cm to 3.0m.

This raises three questions.

1) I would have thought that 3.05m was within acceptable building tolerances, and the term "de minimis" is often used in similar cases. But, what is an acceptable tolerance for heights? I would imagine building heights are really measured in bricks, its hard to build in half bricks. Any thoughts? Or, better still any references / material / laws we can reference?

2) We don't know the natural ground level as the paving was installed prior to us moving in. Is the paving material in such a case?

3) Does anybody know where we can get further info re 'the benefit of doubt' quote from lpasengland? Thus, "The formula in the order gives the benefit of doubt to the developer: height may be measured from the highest part of the surface of the ground adjoining the building"

Finally, does anybody know of any similar cases or reference material that we can use as evidence that this is acceptable? We don't want to have a dispute with the neighbours, but clearly would sooner not have to change the wall as it is complete. Any reference material that helps clarify that we are within limits would be appreciated.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
is the garden on the other side at a higher level ??
if so you can reasonably assume the centre off your garden would be the average height between the centre off the gardens each side
this would also mean the higher side would mean your 3.05 would be less compared with the higher side
Thanks big-all. The garden the other side is about the same as ours, perhaps slightly lower.

I guess the question is how definite is planning approval? Our neighbours have not officially complained, but have suggested that the wall is higher. But, it is higher for them because their garden is lower. But, it is only minimally higher on our side, which is where the measurement should be taken. I hope this can be easily be resolved by providing some information on tolerances along with the material regarding measurements being taken from our ground level.
Planning rules are exactly that, if they want to follow them to the letter of the law they can do! If you have permission to build your extension with a height of 3m and you have built it higher then you are in breach of planning law. If your neighbour kicks up and the planners come knocking then think about justifying it but until they do you should try not to worry. Try to subtley remind your neighbour that any disputes will need to be mentioned when they or you come to sell. Unlike our justice system it is down to the homeowner to prove they are innocent not the council to prove you are guilty! You have been warned.
is the back off your garden any higher??

how accuratley have you measured it is there any finnials you can remove ??
is you hut within 2m off the boundary?? if so it needs to be less than 2.5m

any way you can apply for planning permission

planning portals for a semi
@ big-all,

deansewell is not the OP and should have started his own thread, he's on about an extension not an outbuilding as was the OP! ;)

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