Is there treasure in your garden?

Do you have a building plot?

Finding the right individual building plot is rarely easy and never without challenges. However, sometimes an opportunity is right in front of you, in plain sight. Perhaps your present home is on a generous plot; is there potential to create your own building plot for your new home?

“There’s always much to consider and it’s rarely plain sailing.” explained Barnstaple architect Perry Mears. “The results can however, be really exciting, having overseen some truly fantastic, self-build home developments in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.”

Sometimes there is a natural reluctance to leave a much-loved home, perhaps after many years, so the opportunity to self-build a new home in effectively the same location is a rare chance. It could be the time to downsize or perhaps build a home for a relative or create income. Financial benefit is a strong motivation; for some, in the right circumstances, this can be extremely attractive.

Garden building plot

Peregrine Mears Architects approach

Experienced in such projects the team at North Devon architects Peregrine Mears Architects will consider any impact on existing nearby properties, with our awareness heightened where our client owns both. Potential impact need considering, applying our design experience.

Obtaining indicative valuation advice and guidance from an agent or surveyor is always prudent. This should cover both a new property and also ensuring that a project is not at the detriment of the current home, to assess the overall project financial viability.

Planning Permission

It is dangerous to generalise, however if your garden is within the development boundary of a city, town or village, there is a reasonable chance planning permission can be obtained. Local planning authority policies vary, as do circumstances, including the council’s housing land supply position. Our research can provide an initial insight into the fundamentals and whether, in principle, permission is likely.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is clear that residential gardens are not within the definition of ‘previously developed’ or brownfield sites, confirming that local authorities should consider introducing policies to resist ‘inappropriate’ development of such residential gardens. An Architect will help you create something that is appropriate.

Key considerations

Building in a garden, it’s highly likely that properties would be close to at least one other, and possibly more. Generally the aim is to ensure that any garden plot development relates well to its situation and surroundings, both in terms of the pattern of development and property design.

As Architects we will consider privacy, overlooking. amenity, right to light, aspect and outlook.  Design includes scale, height, massing, form and external materials. Vehicular access is fundamental along with drainage, ecology and more; investigations need to be broad.

Sufficient Space for a building plot

Fundamental, but this might involve more than might initially be apparent. There could be room for an additional home but consider amenity space and parking and vehicle considerations. How would a new property affect the streetscene? Careful, innovative design can achieve a lot. The answer isn’t prescribed and simply copying existing properties isn’t the solution.

Suitable access and parking, including on-site turning which may be needed for many projects use space. The Highway Authorities regulations can be tough to comply with, compliance with visibility and road safety regulations being key. Land ownership should be checked; don’t make assumptions.

Privacy and Overshadowing

The impact on privacy is an essential consideration, windows, as well as gardens. Some local planning authorities state minimum separation distances between properties in their policies. An indicative distance of between 18 – 20 metres between windows in new and existing properties is a reasonable starting point.

Perhaps not an initial consideration but overshadowing can be an issue unless the new property is sited appropriately. The effect on the new home and existing property can affect the saleability and value of both. The construction of new building might affect or even block a property’s outlook, a wider consideration beyond the view, which in itself isn’t a planning consideration.


A key and sensitive area. Trees can be a major feature or significant limitation. They look great, enhancing the setting but are they in the wrong place and protected by a Tree Preservation Order? Their removal can affect an established streetscene, with residents and councils naturally taking a close interest. Careful landscaping solutions can alleviate too much resistance as can specialist advice from an arboriculturalist.


An ecological survey will probably be required as part of a planning application to consider potential impacts on any protected species including bats and reptiles. Timing is often critical in relation to surveys, which can only be carried out at set parts of the year.


A property will need drainage, ideally connected to the mains sewer, with surface water going to a soakaway or water course. The solution is needed as part of the application. A private system could significantly affect site layout options and add to construction costs. Do you need access over adjacent land and do you have appropriate rights?


Planning permission may say that land may be developed from a planning perspective. However, it doesn`t mean that you can develop it in practice! Restrictive covenants in favour of adjacent properties can be a major issue, perhaps requiring a significant cost to remove or totally frustrating a development. We always recommend early investigation of your title, so contact with your solicitor is a sensible first step.

Building Plot Summary

Often identifying a building plot from within a current garden generally leaves the main budget for the build stage, as the site is essentially free, allowing more to invest in design and quality specification.

If you think there is the chance of development in your garden and would like a professional opinion, talk to Barnstaple architects Peregrine Mears Architects as your first step anywhere in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset.

Peregrine Mears Architects | 01271 377 776