Garden Offices and Party Walls Explained

By James Brook FRICS on and updated on

As many of us have had to work from home in the past 15 months, and as hybrid working looks set to be the norm, the demand for garden offices is booming. After months of working from dining tables and sofas, a quiet, purpose-built space at the end of the garden sounds like bliss, but what often isn’t considered is whether you’ll need a Party Wall Agreement in place before you start constructing your garden haven.

Garden offices and planning permission

As well as providing an opportunity to escape the house, add value to your property and create some delineation between work and home, garden offices have also proved popular because, in most cases, they no longer require planning permission.

Often, garden offices can be built under Permitted Development Rules, so long as they are under 2.5 metres in height (or under 3 metres if 2 metres away from your boundary), the floor area is less than 15 square metres, and they don’t contain a sleeping space. Most garden office developers design specifically to fit this criteria, but be sure to double-check yours is a permitted development before you begin work. Your local authority will be able to provide any clarification if needed.

Garden offices and boundary walls

So, if planning permission isn’t required, how could the Party Wall Act potentially come into play? The Party Wall Act must be considered whenever you want to carry out building work near or on a shared property boundary or ‘party wall’, including a shared garden wall. This being the case, garden offices and brick-built sheds and garden excavations near a neighbouring property all potentially fall under the remit of the Party Wall Act and could require a Party Wall Agreement.

To find out whether your project will be affected, the first point to consider is whether there are any shared or adjoining structures within 3 metres of the foundations of your new office. This would include garden walls and brick-built sheds but not timber fences or sheds. If there are, and the foundations of your office will be deeper than those of the existing structure, notice would need to be served to your neighbours. Similarly, if the external walls of the new office will be up to or on the property boundary, notice will again need to be served under Section 1 of the Act.

In the latter case, it may be tempting to move the planned development away from the boundary wall by a very small distance. While this could solve the problem, it may create a new one as it will take the build-out of the scope of the Party Wall Act. This means you will no longer benefit from the access rights you would have with an agreement in place, which could make things tricky for your build team.

As with all things party walls, it’s essential to be clear on the detail as you may have to serve different notices depending on your situation, with each having different processes and procedures. For more insight into this, read our Do I Need a Party Wall Agreement blog.

The Novello Approach

As soon as it becomes clear that your office is affected by the Party Wall Act, it’s essential to take expert, impartial advice. Party wall legislation is detailed and complex, but it provides much-needed clarity for all parties and ensures work is carried out fairly and safely. Hence, it’s important to have the right agreements in place before work begins.

Novello’s RICS-qualified party wall surveyors will advise on which notice needs to be served and handle all the complexities of producing a Party Wall Agreement. We can act as the building owner’s surveyor, the neighbour’s surveyor or both, all at a highly competitive rate.

At Novello, we deliver a high-quality, professional service, guiding you through every step of the process and handling all matters with transparency and honesty.

To find out more about the Party Wall services we offer, contact us today.

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