It can often sound like the perfect scenario to increase space at home. A log cabin at the bottom of the garden to provide extra living space and privacy for a member of the family. Planning permission can be difficult to interpret at times, but finding the right information could save you costs in the long run.
We all dream of adding extra space to our homes, and extensions can be expensive and take a long time to get approved. Over recent years, many of us have cottoned onto the fact that a well-built log cabin could provide the perfect extra bedroom, without extending our homes. In fact, in many countries around the world, large log cabins are used as family homes, tucked away in the middle of the countryside.
Can I live in a log cabin in my garden? In short, No.
The regular log cabins you will find online do not meet the correct building regulations or planning requirements to be used as a residential property. But you may still be able to use the cabin as an extra room for your home. Establishing the difference is important to stay on the right side of the law. Let’s take a deeper look into regulations surrounding garden buildings.
Note: This information is provided as a guide, If in any doubt you should contact your local planning authority.
Why Can I build a log cabin in my garden?
By now, you may be wondering why it is possible to build a log cabin in your garden, but not use it to live in. When it comes to getting planning permission, log cabins (also summerhouses, sheds & garages) generally fall into being classed as outbuildings. The construction of outbuildings is governed by permitted development rights, which allows some work to be completed without planning permission.
These rules are for England and apply to most properties. However, there maybe be additional restrictions in place in areas of outstanding national beauty, world heritage sites, listed buildings and national parks.
Permitted development rights were introduced to allow homeowners to make improvements to their homes to increase value, without the need for lengthy planning applications. But to be classed as an outbuilding for permitted development, a log cabin must fall within certain limits and requirements, and use as a residential property does not fit inside of them.
What counts as permitted development?
a number of requirements must be met for a log cabin to be classed as permitted development. A general use log cabin for enjoyment during the day will usually tick all of the boxes.
The size of the outbuilding must not be more than 50% of the original land around the house. The height of the building must also be a single storey and with a maximum height under 3m with most roof types. If the building is going to be within two metres of a neighbouring boundary, a maximum height of 2.5m is allowed. This is common, with most log cabins being placed at the bottom of a garden, near neighbouring properties to the side and back.
Some quirky permitted development rules also apply, such as no verandas or raised platforms. An outbuilding can also not be built any further forward than the front wall of the original property. It must be constructed to the side or rear of the building.
The key part of permitted development rules is that the outbuilding cannot be used as living accommodation. Most outbuildings will not meet the same specification as a residential dwelling and permitted development rules on outbuildings are not designed to cover outbuildings that are self-contained accommodation. To use a log cabin to live in, additional building regulations and planning permission will apply.
If the log cabin is going to be slept in very occasionally, it can be still be built as permitted development. But if somebody including a guest (or kids sleepover) is going to sleep inside, it must comply with building regulations.
If the log cabin is going to be slept in regularly, or for use as separate accommodation, it must comply with building regulations and also receive planning permission.
Which building regulations apply?
Once your log cabin has sleeping accommodation inside, it must meet building regulations. The regulations are designed to set a requirement for the safety, quality and security of the building. Making the property safe to sleep in is the main job of building regulations.
The requirements are broken down into different sections including foundations, walls, fire protection, heating and flooring. For example, concrete foundations are usually recommended for creating a secure and well-built structure.
The local council will be able to provide all the required information to ensure a garden building complies with building regulations. Once the construction is completed and inspected, a certificate of compliance should be provided.
Do I need planning permission as well?
If the log cabin is going to be regularly lived or slept in, planning permission must also be received from the local planning authority. This is the same for any type of garden building. A planning application is not something that usually happens very quickly. It’s best to get in contact with the planning department as soon as possible and before purchasing a log cabin.
The process for planning permission firstly involves contacting the planning authority for advice. Be prepared with questions you need answering and the features and planned usage of your log cabin. Once you are confident in your plans, a planning application can be submitted online or in paper format.
The planning authority will validate the request for the building and may ask for additional information and documents.
With all of the information, the council will consult the public on the application, and then it will be considered by a planning officer. With everything going well, the application will be approved and purchasing the log cabin can commence. The Planning Portal online contains a wealth of information related to planning permission.
Building regulations and planning permission are not the same thing, and both are required for using a log cabin as self-contained living accommodation. You may also be required to pay separate council tax for the log cabin if it is being lived in. Check with your local council to provide peace of mind & ensure you are covered before carrying out any work.
Are there any exemptions?
Some garden room suppliers advertise their building as fitting within the Caravan Sites Act and therefore not needing planning permission. Of course, we recommend completing your own research before exploring this option further, it’s a grey area.
By falling into the legal definition of a caravan, the building needs to meet a simpler set of requirements. Mobile homes are mostly exempt from building regulations and can use a different grade of materials for insulation etc. There are still limits on the size of the building, which cannot be longer than 20m or over 6.8m wide.
The key difference is the building must be movable and so will not contain permanent foundations. This could also be a benefit if you move house and wish to take the additional building with you.
The benefits of living in a log cabin
Living in a log cabin can provide a practical solution to an overcrowded home. For families with growing children, a separate log cabin instead of a shared bedroom provides space and privacy when it is needed. If you’ve outgrown your current house but don’t want to move, turning to a garden building provides additional space and takes advantage of all the surrounding land.
Cost savings compared with an extension can be achieved, due to lower-cost materials and less red tape to jump through. For a quick solution, the process of installing a liveable log cabin is often faster than building an extension.
In summary, you cannot live in your garden log cabin under most circumstances. As an outbuilding, log cabins fall under permitted development rules, which are simply not designed for self-contained accommodation. Their aim is to cover garden buildings designed for enjoyment and entertainment incidental to the main property.
If you do wish to live in your log cabin, it must comply with building regulations and receive planning permission. For occasional use to sleep inside, the cabin must still meet building regulations.