A Planning Guide to Working From Home

What Is Meant By Working From Home?

For many people including those with a disability or family responsibilities requiring them to be at home, home based work can often be the only way of earning a livelihood. For others it can be a matter of convenience, a preferred lifestyle or a way of initially starting up a business. Government guidelines encourage people to work from home as long as this does not cause unacceptable harm to the amenity of the area or more importantly immediate neighbours.

Do I Need Planning Permission?

You may not need Planning Permission to work from home. The key test is whether the overall character of your house will materially change as a result of your business use.

Some of the criteria to be considered are highlighted in this guide.

If you have any doubts as to whether your business needs planning permission please contact us first. 

Will your home still be used mainly as a private residence?

If you are using more than one room in association with any business this may indicate a change of use. If you are only using one room it is advisable that this room should also remain capable of use for its original purpose eg. dining room/bedroom.

Will your business result in a marked rise in traffic movements, or do visitors or customers need to attend your house in connection with your business?

If your business involves deliveries or collections by large vehicles on a regular basis or customers have to come to your property, this is likely to indicate a change of use. Additional traffic movements and parking problems will usually cause concern to neighbours and are the most common source of complaint to the Council about any business from home.

Will your business need employees to come to the property?

Home based working is usually taken to mean that only the people living at the property are involved in the business. If any employees do not reside at the premises it is likely that a change of use has occurred. Again, employees are likely to cause parking problems and increased traffic movements.

Will your business generate any noise or smells. Will you work antisocial hours. Will your business affect the external appearance of the property?

If your business involves any of these you are likely to be affecting the amenity of neighbours and if your business involves storage of goods or working outside the property it will affect the amenity of a wider area. You will therefore require Planning Permission.

What Activities Are Usually Acceptable In A Residential Property?

  • Child minding - where no more than six children are involved.
  • Lodging/bed and breakfast - dependant on the number of rooms involved.
  • Office - where this involves minimal equipment (computer/desk/filling cabinets etc.) Trades such as plumbers, electricians may be able to store a minimal amount of goods.
  • Light assembly/craft work - where this involves small items and hand held tools.
  • Provision of services - such as telesales, networking, computing, legal. Where no outside staff are required and any customers are minimal and by appointment only.

What Activities Are Usually Unacceptable In A Residential Property:

  • Day Nursery
  • Medical Services
  • Car Sales
  • Car repairs/servicing
  • Building Contractors (where goods are being stored externally)
  • Boarding/Breeding Kennels
  • Joinery/metal work
  • Wholesale storage

The above are guidelines only - each case is considered on it’s own merits and against the potential to effect the amenity of the area or neighbours.

Even if your business use appears to meet the planning criteria, you may still be open to action through the Environmental Health legislation if there is evidence that your activity is causing a statutory nuisance. If this is found to be the case you will clearly need planning permission.

What Happens If The Council Receives Complaints About A Business Use Of My Home?

You will be contacted by the Enforcement Officer. Although the complainant has the right to confidentiality at this stage, you will be made aware of the main concerns.

If appropriate you will be invited to submit a planning application or adjust your working practices. If your business is such that it is normally unacceptable in residential areas you will be advised this may not be granted and that you should seek alternative premises.

The worst case scenario is that you will be served with an Enforcement Notice requiring the business use of your property to cease.

You will have the right to appeal against such a notice.