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Using a Garden Outbuilding as an Office

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 8 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Planning Restrictive Covenants Location

With the advent of telecommuting and broadband connectivity, a home office has become a part of the working lives of a growing number of people – and not just the self-employed or artists.

While the spare room is one option, using an outbuilding in the garden is an alternative which has increasingly been finding favour – but before you decide to invest your cash in a suitable building, there are one or two things to consider.

Planning Issues

Many types of garden buildings can be put up without any planning permission at all – but contrary to popular belief, the issue is often not so much about the size of a garden office as its location and the kind of use you intend to make of it. Site your building somewhere which makes it too intrusive or dominant in the rest of the landscape and – particularly if your neighbours object – you could find yourself at odds with your local Planning Department.

It is difficult to make hard and fast statements over the planning question, since much depends on your local area, as well as issues such as the rules governing conservation areas or listed buildings and any restrictive covenants on development. Although generally wooden outbuildings are exempt from planning, it is your responsibility to check and since the local council can order you to demolish your building if it does not comply with their requirements, it is, obviously, a good idea to check with them at the outset.

Access and Services

Good access is essential for a successful office. While allowing for the essentials of any workplace – the likes of electricity, telephone lines and perhaps water – is seldom forgotten, it’s just as important to consider your own access. Locate your building at the far end of your garden without planning adequate paths and, come the winter, even this short commute will soon begin to grate.

Another aspect of using an outbuilding as a full-time office which needs to be given careful thought is how to make the working environment comfortable. Given Britain’s often rather wet and cold weather, if you’re planning on spending your working day in what really amounts to a glorified wooden shed, finding a way to keep it warm is a must. All the same options which are available for your house can be used in the garden office too, but whether you ultimately opt for gas, electric or solid fuel, it is essential to get some professional advice to make sure you don’t run into problems along the way.

While a good source of heating is vital, it is just as important to make sure that there will be sufficient ventilation in the summer; it is well-nigh impossible to get any work done when the atmosphere is stifling and stuffy.

Security

With thefts from garden sheds and outbuildings one of the fastest growing types of crime in the country, security has to be a major consideration for anyone planning this kind of home office. If thieves find stealing lawnmowers worthwhile, it stands to reason that your state-of-the-art computer system and other office machines will make every bit as tempting and attractive targets.

Good locks, a strongly constructed building and security lighting are just some of the ways you can help yourself avoid becoming a victim – and a chat with your local crime prevention officer is the best way to get some relevant and up-to-the-minute advice.

It is also worth checking with your insurance company that your equipment will be covered while it is in the garden office; if needs be, it is worth paying any supplement to make sure it is, rather than just saying nothing and hoping everything will be alright. With the rise of this kind of working, most insurance companies are used to the needs of home-workers and the additional premiums which may be payable are usually quite modest.

Garden outbuildings are a very cost effective way to add extra working space to your home and offer many benefits over the traditional commuter lifestyle. With a bit of careful planning at the outset, you could soon be enjoying an ideal work environment – and the shortest possible journey to the office.

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