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Outbuilding permitted development Incidental vs. Ancillary use

Over the past two years we have seen a stark rise in outbuilding enforcement cases across England. This has been caused by a misunderstanding of the General Permitted Development Order.

We noticed something that came up regularly the confusion over permitted development with outbuildings, especially regarding the differences between ancillary and incidental use. Given that we’ve seen a lot of enforcement cases with these types of work over the years, we thought it would be worth looking in to and offering a clarifying article regarding this problem.

Under Schedule 2 Part 1 Class E of the GPDO, permitted development is defined as:

“(a) any building or enclosure, swimming or other pool required for a purpose incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling as such, or the maintenance, improvement or other alteration of such a building or enclosure”.

The vital word used in the GPDO is incidental, but in planning terms what does this actually mean?

The rules around permitted development might seem quite clear. Which is probably why a lot of landowners think that as long as they obey the associated restrictions, they can do whatever they like with outbuildings.

We’ve come across people attempting to hide a house in their garage behind a garage door and in breach of planning law. In one case a retrospective planning application was then submitted to the local authority but was refused and the garage was ordered to be reinstated.

The confusion of incidental vs ancillary use

ANCILLARY (needs planning permission) = generally anything you as an individual could do normally in a standard house as built; e.g. eat, sleep, sit, pray, study, watch tv, wash.

INCIDENTAL (permitted development) = generally all else. Including storage, swimming, bowling, gym, art studio, or something that can be classed as a hobby. An incidental use is “parasitic” on the primary use- it cannot exist without it. Also ancillary use can be incorporated as long as it’s secondary to the incidental, i.e. shower room for gym or small bar area- these are seen to not materially extend the normal living accommodation at the property.

A lot of landlords have done outbuilding work without planning permission under the assumption that as the new building when compared to the main dwelling could be described as incidental in scope and it falls under permitted development.

In a lot of cases, however, the work is actually defined under planning law as being ‘ancillary’, in that it’s extending the normal residential accommodation of the main dwelling house. For example, these works might include the building of granny flats, summer houses and garage conversions. Such outbuildings would be considered places where you can do everything you can do in a normal house, such as eating, sleeping, taking a shower etc, and therefore would not fall under permitted development. These outbuildings need planning permission.

So homeowners pay heed: while the words incidental and ancillary may have similar definitions outside of planning, you need to understand that they are fundamentally different in this sector especially when it comes to the permitted development of outbuildings.

If you’re not sure about the work you have planned and want to double check that it falls under permitted development restrictions to avoid problems later? Get in touch with HAD today


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