Was planning permission needed for this garden office?

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My neighbours built a home office in the garden of their mid-terrace flat during lockdown, and they are in it most of the time. We are in a conservation area with article 4 directions. The previous neighbours hardly used their garden and I'm now constantly under-looked when I'm in my most-used rooms which were previously private. I know these are not really valid grounds for a complaint.

But, I've spoken informally to a couple of people who told me that the construction of the garden office should have had planning permission. This was the person who answered when I rang up the council's general planning line (though this wasn't a planning officer), and someone from the local area conservation society. Yet no application was made.

What strikes me as curious is that the upper floors of the house are a council flat occupied by council tenants. I feel that the family who live there are discouraged from accessing the rear of the garden (their section), because they would have to go down the garden path that's at the side of the home office, and past the leaseholder's large aggressive dog too. I would have thought that as the council are the freeholder, they would have stuck up for the interests of their tenant and refused permission. Or anyway they would have known that it was necessary to apply for planning permission and they would have done so.

I don't think the leaseholders are in the wrong, they must surely have obtained permission from the freeholder. But was the local council freeholder in error not to then apply for planning permission?

What would happen if I chose to meddle and wrote a letter to the planning department identifying the issue? I suppose they would just be made to retrospectively apply for planning permission, they wouldn't be made to knock it down?

By the way I am a long-term tenant. I have mentioned it to my landlord who's the freeholder of this property, but he is not bothered.
 
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They may be invited to apply for planning permission. Unlikely made to remove it unless it's a monstrosity.

Building regulations may apply if you want to be particularly meddlesome and you could check the land deeds for any restrictive covenants if you want to take it to Level 10 Meddling.
 
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Thank you, ^woody^.

Which party is it that should have applied for planning permission. Would it have been the leaseholder of the flat, the ones that had it built. Or would it have been their freeholder, the local council's housing organisation?

It's very close to the boundary on the other side, but about 2 metres from mine. The garden is quite large and the structure only takes up about 33% of the land. It's possibly as little as 25% if you go by the original deeds and don't include the single-story extension that was built by the previous owners. It's also not visible from the street.

Most likely nothing will happen about it, then, especially if as you say they're unlikely to be made to pull it down.

I will need to find some other matters to meddle in!
 
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Think about all the horrible things bad neighbours could do, and be thankful you have what you have. Don't forget the law of unforseen consequences. If you make their life difficult, they might move and then there is no knowing who comes next.....
 
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Which party is it that should have applied for planning permission.
Anyone can apply for planning permission, even you could if you wanted to be a good neighbour. But normally it work be the person that wanted the office in the first place.
 
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Anyone can apply for planning permission, even you could if you wanted to be a good neighbour. But normally it work be the person that wanted the office in the first place.

Thanks, that makes sense. When the previous owners built the single storey extension, they were the ones that applied as leaseholders, it was not the freeholders.

I will mull over being a good neighbour :).
 
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Hah, true, mrrusty. They are not having loud parties or smoking skunk etc. It's just that when I am standing at my kitchen sink, as is my wont, I am now underlooked by their garden office so always feel a bit exposed.

Also it's a bit of a shame that the council tenants who live upstairs from them never use the back half of the garden which is theirs. As a result it is overgrown with weeds. I have to imagine they would feel intimidated walking down the path through the front half of the garden, past the ground floor flat's lawn and office, to reach their own garden. I can hardly imagine it happening, in fact.

The guy from the local conservation society said that the reason that ground floor flats were not always allowed to build garden offices was precisely to stop situations like this, where upper flats are implicitly discouraged from accessing their section of garden. Though technically they still could, they would need a brass neck.

But perhaps the council tenants are just not gardening types. And it may as much be that the council won't clear the weeds, and they wouldn't be willing or able to clear it themselves.

Anyway - quite possibly I am spending too much time at home myself and need to get out more :). Thanks for listening.
 
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If you are undercooked can you put up a fence or grow som tall bamboo

if the garden office is closer than 2 metres to boundary and over 2.5m high, it needs planning.
 
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Thanks, Notch7.

We're in a row of terraced houses, so the garden office is very close to the boundary of one property. It is further from the other boundary to allow for the width of the garden path that would be used by the council tenants to access their section of garden. I suspect it's two metres distance on that side but not the other.

My kitchen is on the second floor, looking down the side-returns. I think getting a "bottom-up" blind to cover the bottom sash of my window would be the only way I could stop being underlooked. That way I could still see the sky and the tree-tops, but would not be visible from their garden.

Though I like the idea of some particularly tall bamboo....
 
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Unfortunately, when it comes to shared gardens there can often be challenges. For example one person/family might use their space more dominantly e.g. out there a lot, people having bbq's etc. This can discourage the less dominant people/families from using their spaces. Not saying it's right however that's often the way it is.

When you say your kitchen's on the second floor, do you mean two floors up i.e. ground floor, first floor then second floor (kitchen)? If yes, surely they can't see that much of what's going on if they're in a ground floor office? Unless your rooms have longer windows i.e. that go closer to floor level but even then.

You could always cover the bottom third of the glass with something like this?

 
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You could always cover the bottom third of the glass with something like this?

I have used some of that, actually the patterned version, on my two side windows - the only windows in the house where I am over looked. I hate drawing curtains for privacy, so the film entirely avoids the need to do that, other than for low flying aircraft :)
 
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It's a flat, planned is required regardless
No there is no distinction between flats and houses...its a home with a garden which are all are allowed outbuildings...its just a shed in planning. It only becomes something else when you sleep in it or have a bathroom fitted...
 
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I have used some of that, actually the patterned version, on my two side windows - the only windows in the house where I am over looked. I hate drawing curtains for privacy, so the film entirely avoids the need to do that, other than for low flying aircraft :)
My kitchen and dining room windows look directly on to my neighbours driveway and front garden. Plus not a great distance between. So it was sometimes a bit awkward e.g. if I was at my kitchen window and they were at their car or in the garden. So I put that stuff up on the bottom half. Makes a world of difference.
 
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My kitchen and dining room windows look directly on to my neighbours driveway and front garden. Plus not a great distance between. So it was sometimes a bit awkward e.g. if I was at my kitchen window and they were at their car or in the garden. So I put that stuff up on the bottom half. Makes a world of difference.

Yep - no logical reason why it should, but it's not nice the feeling of being overlooked, rather like being a goldfish in a bowl. I don't suffer from claustrophobia, but I don't like the feeling of isolation of drawn curtains and they are mostly there for decoration. I fitted vertical blinds, but those are only drawn to block the sun on sunny evenings, rather than any need for privacy.
 

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