Welcome to our FAQ’s page where hopefully you will be able to find the answers to the questions that most people ask when considering a building for their garden – everything from do I need planning permission and if so what the building regulations? to questions concerning quality and build and even HMRC and VAT implications.
We have provided many of the questions that we regularly get asked however if you can’t find an answer then please do not hesitate to contact us.
Building Regulations (2)
If you intend to live permanently (self-contained) within your building, and it isn’t classified as a caravan (click this link to understand what constitutes a ‘caravan) then it will need to full planning regulations.
Building regulations are in place to ensure your finished build is safe, efficient and long-lasting. Our timber frame and twin-skin log models are designed to fully comply with UK building regulations (including the new Eurocode 5) as standard. In fact, we can build to stricter, Scandinavian regulations and Tek10 for ultimate performance and future proofing. Not all buildings/instances require building regulations, but if you intend to use your new building for sleeping accommodation, and it can’t be classed as a ‘mobile home’ building regulations will usually be required.
BS 3632:2015 Residential Park Homes
HMRC & VAT (1)
VAT (currently at 20%) is applicable of all of our buildings (including granny annexes) except in the following circumstances:
The term ‘caravan’ is not defined in the VAT legislation. In practice we base our interpretation on the definitions in the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 and the Caravans Sites Act 1968.
A caravan is a structure that:
- is designed or adapted for human habitation
- when assembled, is physically capable of being moved from one place to another (whether by being towed or by being transported on a motor vehicle so designed or adapted), and
- is no more than
- 20 metres long (exclusive of any drawbar)
- 6.8 metres wide, or
- 3.05 metres high (measured internally from the floor at the lowest level to the ceiling at the highest level)
A ‘twin unit’ caravan can fall within this definition if composed of no more than two sections designed to be assembled on site by means of bolts, clamps and other devices, as long as, once assembled, it is physically capable of being moved from one place to another.
For a caravan to be regarded as designed for human habitation it must have the attributes of a dwelling, that is, it must consist of self-contained living accommodation. It would need to have washing facilities and the means to prepare food (such as kitchens and bathrooms).
We see the term caravan as including mobile homes (often known as residential park homes), static caravans (often called caravan holiday homes or lodges), but not motor caravans (often called motor homes).
A structure that fails to meet the conditions described above may constitute a building for planning purposes, in which case, the first sale or long lease of it may qualify for the zero rate of VAT under the conditions described in Notice 708 Buildings and construction.
For anyone making supplies of NEW caravans on or after 6 April 2013 it is necessary to establish whether or not VAT is chargeable:
- the supply will be standard-rated if it does not exceed either 7m in length or 2.55m in width
- the supply will be reduced rated if it exceeds either 7m in length or 2.55m in width and it is not manufactured to BS 3632:2005
- the supply will be zero rated if it was sold on or after 6 April 2013 and it exceeds either 7m in length or 2.55m in width and it is manufactured to BS3632:2005
For further clarification please click the link to the HMRC website.
Manufacturing Quality & Design (15)
All of our buildings come standard with double-glazing. Our smaller ranges of buildings can all be upgraded to residential-quality windows and door, offering even better quality and increased thermal insulation.
Our passive homes need to meet the very highest standard in thermal efficiency so they all come with triple-glazed units.
Bi-fold doors consist of a number of glass panels that can be folded together and to one side. They are a great option to create a light-filled space, connecting the living areas to the outside.
All of our buildings possess better insulation values than traditional shed-style buildings. However we would certainly recommend upgrading to roof and floor insulation to increase comfort levels, reduce heating costs and future-proof your building for changes in use. We will discuss with you any recommendations that we feel may benefit your intended use of your building.
Our larger (residential) buildings are designed to be enjoyed all year round, with unrivalled levels of insulation as standard. Insulation is built into our timber frame panels, and is added between the wall layers of our twin-skin log buildings. We can insulate according to the U-values the building needs to achieve, right up to passive house standards, but as a guide 100mm of insulation is very efficient for most requirements to cover walls, 175mm insulation for floors, and 215mm in the roof.
We favour Siberian larch for our timber frame builds because of its excellent durability, dimensional stability (minimal shrinkage/swelling), and aesthetic beauty. It grows very slowly, making it extremely dense and strong when compared to other softwoods. In fact, Siberian larch is one of the toughest and most durable softwoods in the world. It can be painted or treated to maintain its strawlike colour, or when weathered it transforms to a beautifully consistent silver/grey, which is highly desirable in many cladding projects. Siberian larch should not be confused with the dark pink British/European larch that grows faster and not as dense in a warmer, wetter climate. Siberian larch also contains fewer knots – for a clean, contemporary, and consistent look – and, unlike British/European larch, its knots are light in colour and remain solid, even after drying and machining.
Alternative to timber frame construction, offering the traditional log cabin look of timber inside and out with interlocking exterior feature corners. Constructed log by log, rather than from sections/panels, this type of build is well suited to sites with restricted access. Log buildings are available as single skin or twin skin glulam.
U-values (also known as ‘heat transfer coefficients’) are a measure of how effective a building element (such as a wall, floor, roof, etc) is at preventing heat from transmitting between the inside and the outside of a building. The lower the Uvalue, the less energy is required to maintain comfortable conditions inside the building. U-value requirements are part of meeting Building Regulations. Our buildings are designed to be high performance. High levels of insulation and quality features such as double, triple, and argonfilled glazing ensure low U-values, all the way to passive house standards – like we’ve achieved on our show home.
This is a type of log construction featuring two wall layers, or skins. The plumbing and electrics are hidden between the two wall layers. Insulation is added here too, which makes twin-skin a good option for residential log builds, particularly if building regulations are required.
Constructed from sections/panels with full insulation built in, this type of build gives you a plasterboard interior finish inline with modern houses, with plumbing and electrics hidden behind. It’s an ideal option if building regulations is required. The exterior features vertical Siberian larch cladding to provide a clean, contemporary, and consistent look.
Timber is the only mainstream 100% renewable building material. Increased demand means increased sustainable managed forest to supply it, so its a win-win situation. Timber has the lowest embodied energy and best thermal insulation properties of any mainstream building material. Our timber is FSCapproved and comes straight out of the forest and into the mill, so handling is minimal.
Our timber buildings are built to order and precision engineered in factory-controlled conditions, so wastage is minimised, and so are post erection quality/snagging issues. Timber buildings are quick to erect, so on site construction time and resources is greatly reduced.
Type of log construction featuring a single wall layer, or skin. With only one wall layer, plumbing and electrics are facemounted – so pipes and cables (inside conduit) can be seen running along walls – and the wood itself is the insulation. For hidden electrics and plumbing, and additional insulation see ‘twin skin’.
A Passive House creates a super insulated energy efficient home, with tiny heating bills, minimal carbon footprint, lots of natural light and superior levels of comfort compared to normal homes. We can design passive house technology into our residential models. The interior maintains a comfortable temperature – from the coldest day of winter to the hottest day of summer – without traditional heating and air- conditioning systems. The thickness of the walls, roof and floor is greatly increased and all glass upgraded to argon- filled triple glazing to achieve the incredible levels of insulation and Uvalues required. A mechanical heat recovery ventilation system provides a constant supply of fresh air using only a fraction of the energy consumed by a typical house.
For maximum quality we use glued laminated timber (glulam) for our residential log buildings, as opposed to standard solid timber. Solid timber moves throughout the year because of shrinking/swelling, and it splits easily, too. Glulam is engineered from 40mm layers of timber (woodgrains in opposing directions) bonded together to increase strength and stability. It won’t rot, shrink, crack or split – it’s virtually maintenance free, and lasts a lifetime. Glulam can conform to building regulations because structural calculations can be made that aren’t possible with standard solid timber. If you prefer a plasterboard interior finish in line with modern houses, rather than the traditional timber look, glulam makes it possible to add framework and plasterboard to the internal walls that are external facing.
This is a measurement of how strong the timber is. The timber’s characteristics are graded against permissible limits for the timber species. The higher the number, the stronger the timber. A common strength class in the UK is C16. We only use timber of C24 to C40 (more in line with demanding Scandinavian requirements) to ensure the highest quality possible.
Planning Permission (5)
Single-storey outbuildings can be considered as permitted development; without needing planning permission. Located to the rear or side of a property, they must be ancillary to the main dwelling and not contain living accommodation – office/studio space for example.
The footprint can be up to 50% of the total area of land around the house. The maximum height for a dual pitch roof is 4m (3m for other roof types [e.g. mono pitch or flat]), and 2.5m if within 2m of the property boundary. Building regulations approval is not usually required up to 30m2 in floor area (no sleeping accommodation). More information can be found at www.planningportal.gov.uk
Any building that is to be used as a residential dwelling or a holiday let will require planning permission.
1. Contact Your Council Planning Department
Give your local planning office a call. Planning Offices are not all the same and some will give you helpful advice over the phone and others will direct you to filling in an initial planning form typically called “Do I Need Planning Permission”. This form will ask you certain details that will allow a planning offer review your request and confirm definitely whether planning permission is required. If you have ‘difficult’ neighbours then many of our customers will get that letter, even if they don’t need planning permission just so there are no surprise visits from the council.
If they outright say “You need planning” then a full planning form is required to be filled in. The best way to do this is online through the Planning Portal as you can see the progress and upload information on your plans. See below.
2. Create & Submit Plans
The Planning Portal makes submission quite straight forward and in many cases you will be able to do this yourself. We will be able to provide scale drawings for your building that you will need to submit with your application. You will also need to provide a scale map of where you propose to position the building. You may want professional help for this bit and so a Google search of local Planning experts will give you a list of local people to ask for help(typically ex-planning officers). Alternatively Planning Aid provides free, independent and professional planning advice to community groups and individuals who can’t afford to pay professional fees. Further information about eligibility and planning matters is available if you follow the link www.rtpi.org.uk/planningaid.
3. Order Your Building
Once you have your approval then we can order your building.
4. Enjoy It!
Our buildings are manufactured to the very best quality and are designed to last many decades of use.
A selection of our models can be classed as a ‘mobile home’. Built to our usual residential house standard for all year round enjoyment (not the flimsy, substandard BS3632 specification associated with holiday parks), these can be up to 20 x 6.8m and feature multiple bedrooms. The big advantage is that if the building is going in the grounds of your main house, you could add new living space without needing planning approval and increase the value and use of your property.
Below are rules that are applicable to mobile homes:
Private land (without an existing dwelling)
If you own a piece of land away from your current dwelling and wish to site a mobile cabin on it then you will need to apply for full planning permission with your local planning department.
Sites that have a building on already (such as a barn) often have more chance of getting permission but we have found that planning departments often like mobile cabins as they are not deemed permanent but in reality they will last for 100’s of years if maintained properly. Once you have permission for a mobile home for residential use then the council are normally happy with our product as it looks far better in the country than a metal box with a flat roof.
Private land (in the curtilage of an existing dwelling)
If you want to have a mobile home cabin within your garden (curtilage of your dwelling house) to be used an extra room in addition to the main house such as an extra bedroom or day room then you will not need planning permission unless you live in a conservation area. Some councils will require you to apply for a Certificate of Lawful Development so it is always worth checking with your local planning department.
Mobile cabins are a great idea if you are thinking of creating a business of holiday lets. The cabins are of high quality and provide a wow factor that normal static caravans don’t.
You will need to apply for planning permission with your local council and will need to submit information on the economic value of the business both direct (benefits to your own business) as well as indirect (benefits to other parts of the local economy).
You can use a caravan for forestry purposes, such as storage of tools, shelter for workers or as a site office. Provided the caravan is not for residential use, it falls completely outside planning controls. The Caravan Sites Act 1968 says that the legal definition of a caravan includes mobile homes. Under this definition, there is no necessity for the caravan to have wheels, as long as it is under the size limit and can be delivered in no more than two sections. For this use however we prefer the Permitted development route as it allows us to construct the cabin on site.
You will need to consider planning permission if it doesn’t meet the following rules as laid out for the following:
Rules governing outbuildings apply to sheds, greenhouses and garages as well as other ancillary garden buildings such as swimming pools, ponds, sauna cabins, kennels, enclosures (including tennis courts) and many other kinds of structure for a purpose incidental to the enjoyment of the dwellinghouse.
Other rules relate to the installation of a satellite dish, the erection of a new dwelling or the erection or provision of fuel storage tanks.
Outbuildings are considered to be permitted development, not needing planning permission, subject to the following limits and conditions:
- No outbuilding on land forward of a wall forming the principal elevation.
- Outbuildings and garages to be single storey with maximum eaves height of 2.5 metres and maximum overall height of four metres with a dual pitched roof or three metres for any other roof.
- Maximum height of 2.5 metres in the case of a building, enclosure or container within two metres of a boundary of the curtilage of the dwellinghouse.
- No verandas, balconies or raised platforms.
- No more than half the area of land around the “original house”* would be covered by additions or other buildings.
- In National Parks, the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites the maximum area to be covered by buildings, enclosures, containers and pools more than 20 metres from house to be limited to 10 square metres.
- On designated land* buildings, enclosures, containers and pools at the side of properties will require planning permission.
- Within the curtilage of listed buildings any outbuilding will require planning permission.
*The term “original house” means the house as it was first built or as it stood on 1 July 1948 (if it was built before that date). Although you may not have built an extension to the house, a previous owner may have done so.
*Designated land includes national parks and the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, conservation areas and World Heritage Sites.
Please note: The permitted development allowances described here apply to houses and not to:
- Flats and maisonettes (view our guidance on flats and maisonettes)
- Converted houses or houses created through the permitted development rights to change use (as detailed in our change of use section)
- Other buildings
- Areas where there may be a planning condition, Article 4 Direction or other restriction that limits permitted development rights.
- Permitted Development for householders – Technical Guidance
You are strongly advised to read a technical guidance document produced by the Government to help understand how permitted development rules might apply to your circumstances.