• Ben W.

Do You Need Planning Permission For A Shepherds Hut?

Updated: May 19

The shortest answer we can give is "Sometimes".

Example of a Location Plan for a proposed Glamping Site in an agricultural meadow

We get asked this questions a lot by our customers, and occasionally we hear the dreaded phrase "You don't need planning permission for a Shepherds Hut because it's on wheels.". As much as we'd love for this to be true, it's unfortunately quite misleading- It's got nothing to do with the hut being on wheels, or whether it's attached to the ground or any utilities. It's more to do with where you site your hut and what you use it for. In this article, we hope to clear up the myths and misconceptions and help you achieve peace of mind, knowing that you can buy a Shepherds Hut without worrying about backlash from the planners or the neighbours.

It's worth noting a few things before we get started: Firstly, we are not professional planning consultants- Although we have a decade of experience dealing with planners and have helped a few of our customers get their planning permission, we'd always recommend working with a professional local consultant. Secondly, the date of this article being written is January 2022. Planning rules and laws can change, and who knows what the future will hold? Finally, this is not an official planning guide so we would always defer to your local authority for expert advice.

Personal vs. Commercial

A situation where you are less likely to require planning permission to site a hut is if it were to be for personal use within the boundaries of your own garden. If you have permitted development rights within your own property, you may be justified in siting a garden building for "personal and incidental use to the enjoyment of the property". The use of your garden does not change.

Examples where this may be the case might be a hut used as a garden room, home office, studio or spare bedroom for family or personal, non-paying guests. However, this is not always guaranteed, as various factors such as the heritage of the property, environment, neighbours or restrictive covenants may prevent you from doing this. If you are unsure, you should speak to your planners and if you are more concerned about irking your neighbours then you can also apply for a "Certificate of Lawful Use", which essentially proves that you have the right to place a hut in your garden without the need for planning permission.

A Shepherds Hut in a Garden, built by The English Shepherds Hut Company
Planning permission was not required for this Shepherd Hut, which is simply used as a garden room by the residents of the property.

However, if you wish to buy a Shepherds Hut to live in, you may well require planning. For example, if it is to be your primary residence, the planners may view it as a new dwelling. On the other hand, you may be able to site a hut as a "granny annexe", incidental to the main dwelling. This is where the guidance of a professional planning consultant is invaluable.

A situation where you are more likely to require planning permission is if you wish to use the hut for a commercial reason. Most commonly this would be glamping accommodation, but essentially any use where visiting members of the public pay to use the hut could be seen as commercial. Depending on where you site the hut, it would likely be considered to be a Change of Use of the land.

For example, if you were to place a hut in your garden and rent it out on Airbnb, you are changing the use of a portion of your garden from Residential to Commercial. If you owned a meadow or paddock and set up glamping pitches (whether they are Shepherd Huts, pods or even just bell tents), you are changing the use of that field from Agricultural to Commercial. The fact that the huts are on wheels doesn't really come into the equation, although it does support the claim that Shepherd huts have a lower impact than conventional timber cabins, as they can be completely removed without any trace if required. Even if the land is already approved for use as a B&B, Hotel or Campsite, your current permissions may only extend to a specific number of pitches or rooms, so any additions will likely be seen as a change of use.

Shepherds hut glamping with hot tub and treehouse.
Planning permission was very much required for this luxury glamping hut at Wild With Nature in Norfolk which is situated in secluded farmland.

From a planning perspective, this change of use will be scrutinized by your local authority and they will ask various questions, such as;

  • Is this an appropriate development for the area?

  • Is it sustainable or required here?

  • Will it impact the environment or any nearby residents?

  • Will it set any precedent for further or similar developments on site or nearby?

That's essentially what a planning application is. And you should be prepared to wait, as some planning departments can take months to process an application- On average, we find that most of our customers are waiting about 4 months from point of submission, so you should factor this into your plans. You should also budget for the cost of submitting the application (Typically around £480, depending on the authority), plus the cost of a planning consultant if you use one, and any ecology, tree or highway surveys if you need to submit these.

As there are hundreds of different local planning authorities across the UK, each with their own policies and values, there really isn't a once-size-fits-all approach. A proposal to site a number of huts may be approved in one area, but refused the next county over, for a number of reasons.

In these cases, our best advice would be as follows:

  • Work with a local planning consultant who is familiar with the planning laws in your area. Preferably find someone who has successfully worked on similar projects to what you are hoping to set up.

  • Put together an initial scheme outlining what you hope to achieve on your site, and a business plan. There are also professional consultants who specialise in setting up glamping businesses, such as Glampitect. Doing this can help you communicate more clearly with the planners, as it is often easier if they "get" the project that you're trying to propose.

  • Approach your local authority for a Pre-Application Enquiry. This is cheaper and quicker than a full planning application and although it won't grant you permission, it will let you know how likely the planners are to approve your proposal. Depending on how proactive the planners they, they may potentially give you some advice on what changes you'd need to make to improve the proposal, and advise on what (if any) additional info is required such as arboricultural or ecological surveys.

What is the 28 day camping rule?

You may have heard that it's possible to set up a camping site on land you own for up to 28 days without the need for planning permission. This was actually increased to 56 days a year to help stimulate the UK tourism market after the 2020 Covid pandemic. We won't go into too much detail here, but you can consult the official government guidelines here, or this handy guide from Cool Camping that explains it better than we can! You can also get more advice from the Planning Portal, which can also tell you who exactly your local authority is.

Essentially, the 28 (or 56) day rule is a great way for an aspiring new site to test the waters and try their hand at running a campsite without fully committing. Many have been hugely successful and gone on to launch established sites. However, if you're investing in our luxury Shepherd Huts as a commercial business, 28 or even 56 bookings a year sadly won't provide much of a return on your investment! That's why getting full planning permission can allow you to enjoy a reliable and lucrative revenue stream 12 months of the year, for the next few decades and in our opinion is well worth the hassle!

As we said, there's never a one-size-fits-all approach with planning, and although it can seem a bit daunting to begin with, it's really not that hard to achieve. As UK staycations, farm diversification and Glamping continue to trend upwards, there is generally a good appetite across the UK for small scale, sustainable tourist accommodation and that's likely to continue in the future. Ultimately we want our customers to have peace of mind before ordering their hut, and the last thing we want is for a customer to have to give up their hut due to a planning mishap! It is the customers responsibility to ensure that all necessary permissions are in place before the hut is delivered, and hopefully this article has helped give you an idea where to start.

If you'd like to discuss your project with us in more detail, please do give us a call on 01603 397777 or email info@englishshepherdshut.co.uk

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