Planning permission for garden extension

Q We own 3.1 acres of which 0.8 acres is in the village settlement boundary and on this sits our house and the other 2.3 acres is outside in the form of a field. We wished to add 0.5 acres of the land in the field to our own garden. We applied and the council rejected our application, saying it to be an unwarranted extension into the countryside. We’re considering an appeal but, as we understand it, much of what we wanted to do to this 0.5 acre extension we could probably do anyway.

Are we correct in saying that if we wanted to put down meadow grass, put up a low post and rail fence, put in a frog pond and plant trees/hedge, none of these would require planning permission? The field can’t be seen by anyone, having a high hedge all round. We wanted to improve the area and create a wildlife/natural attraction and submitted a landscape plan with our application but this presently has not convinced the council of our good intentions.

A Incorporating agricultural land within a garden is a change of use for planning purposes and so permission is required for it. It’s not so much the physical inclusion but the use that’s important in determining when permission is required.

You’re right that sowing grass seed, putting up a fence (providing there isn’t an article 4 direction prohibiting fencing) and planting trees and hedges don’t need planning permission (digging ponds can sometimes require permission).

What’s more crucial is how you then use the land. If it were used for recreational, domestic-related or other non-agricultural purposes, you could cross the (very grey) line into changing the use. The council might not doubt your good intentions at all – the problem is probably that it has a policy to prevent creeping ‘urbanisation’ of the countryside and feels obliged to apply it.

This is a difficult area and, for the reasons you identify, councils often have difficulty in stopping semi-annexation of agricultural land. Plus, if the land is as well screened as you suggest, the council might never know or be interested in whether precisely what you do on it actually needs planning permission.

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