You've decided that you're going to build a pergola — how exciting!
Whether you're planning to use it as a sitting area or a focal point in your garden, it's important to make sure that you stay within planning rules.
Do you always need planning permission to build a pergola or does it only apply in particular instances?
Planning Permission Resources
Here is a number of resources we used for this guide that you may also find useful in your research.
Do You Need Planning Permission for a Pergola?
In most instances, you do not need planning permission for a pergola. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. To be sure that your next outdoor project won't land you in trouble, make sure you consider the following points.
The first thing to consider when deciding to build a pergola is your property location. If your home is a listed building or you live in a protected area (such as a World Heritage Site, national park, or Area of Outstanding Beauty), you may not be allowed to construct a pergola. You'll need to check with your local council to determine the rules for your particular situation.
Total Land Use
Assuming that you aren't prohibited from building a pergola due to your property location, it's now time to think about how you are using the land itself. Per the Permitted Development Rights, you cannot use more than 50% of the land around your home for outdoor buildings, including sheds, pergolas, and other garden buildings. If you are currently under 50% use and the addition of your new pergola will still keep you under 50% use, you've passed this test.
The next thing to think about is where you'd like to place your pergola. If you were thinking about placing it at the front of your house, you'll unfortunately need to think again. Per the same regulations stated above, you cannot place a pergola at the front of your home, otherwise known as the principal elevation.
Thinking of another spot in your garden? Take note of boundaries with your neighbors as how close you build to one of these boundaries will have an effect on how large a pergola you can build.
Also take note that per the Permitted Development Rights, you cannot build balconies, raised platforms, or verdanas on your property. So by extension, you also cannot build a pergola on any of these structures.
Assuming you've passed every test and are clear to build a pergola, you now need to spend a little time thinking about the size of the structure. Per the Permitted Development Rights, your pergola cannot measure more than 4 metres high, unless you are building within 2 metres of a boundary with your neighbor. If you are, your pergola height cannot exceed 3 metres. Why the rule? This is to prevent your structure from interfering with your neighbor's view.
Not sure whether you're in the clear to build a pergola? As the old adage says, it's better to be safe than sorry. If you're unclear about whether your building project is allowed, reach out to your local council. They'll have exact information about what you can or cannot do. And then once you get the all clear, you'll be free to start on your new project.
Can I build a pergola on my own?
You can definitely build your own pergola, so long as you know what you're doing or are willing to learn. If you have experience in these types of projects, you'll probably have fun building your own pergola. If you don't, you may find the process intimidating. In this case, consider hiring a professional or finding a friend who can help.
Is it hard to build a pergola?
Pergolas can range in design from incredibly simple to somewhat complex. If you have construction experience and a good plan to follow, you can definitely build your own pergola. Nervous about materials? You also have the option of buying a ready-made kit that comes with everything you need to build your structure. However, note that just because kits come with all necessary materials, they can still be challenging to assemble. If you're unsure of your skill or availability, it might be a good idea to hire a professional.
How large should my pergola be?
The size of your pergola will depend on your needs and the amount of space available to you. Remember, you can only use up to 50% of your garden area for outdoor structures, so the size of your pergola may be limited by this requirement. Assuming you have adequate space, the next thing to consider is what you plan to do with your pergola. It may be helpful to first buy tables, chairs, and other furniture that you plan to place under your pergola. Arranging these items will give you an excellent idea of how much space you need to cover.
Can I add screening to my pergola?
If you live in an area with bugs, you may find your pergola more comfortable if it's screened in — and that is completely allowed. In addition to screening, you may also enclose your pergola even more using paneling. This can be useful if one or more sides of your pergola face neighbors and you wish to have some added privacy.
Can I add lights to my pergola?
Yes, you can add lighting and other accessories to your pergola. Doing so will help keep your space inviting, even into the night. Hanging lights, such as fairy lights and other string lights, are popular options for outdoor structures like pergolas. They are both attractive and functional, adding soft ambience for outdoor meals and other get-togethers. If you are planning more permanent lighting, it would be a good idea to check with your local council regarding electrical codes. If this type of lighting is allowable, consider hiring an electrician to be sure the lighting is installed safely.