Can I build a pergola next to my neighbour's fence? The rules you need to follow to avoid any fallouts

Experts advise where it is reasonable to erect a garden pergola when neighbours' boundaries are concerned

premium pergola
(Image credit: Future/Colin Poole)

Summer is a practical time to consider a little privacy and shade in the garden, and what better way than building a striking pergola? But, if you live in a residential area, before you start measuring up the patio it's a good idea to ask the question' Can I build a pergola next to my neighbour's fence?'

There is no doubt that there are plenty of pergola ideas to add seclusion to your garden. But as these beautifully framed structures are usually permanent and pricey, it's wise to know if there are any regulations to consider, especially if you intend to build a pergola close to a neighbour's fence or wall.  

As with garden shed regulations, you shouldn't need planning permission to erect a typical pergola in a standard garden. However, there are some building regulations to follow and (in our opinion) a few courteous customs to consider to keep everyone happy. If you're looking to add this particular garden screening idea to your outdoor space, we spoke to the experts and asked the question: Can I build a pergola next to my neighbour's fence?

Can I build a pergola next to my neighbour's fence?

Whether it's a fence or wall, the simple answer is 'yes', you can build a pergola next to your neighbour's fence, but there are  several things to consider when building a pergola to abide by the law and stay in favour with fellow dwellers in your area. 

Simon Wardle, paving patio expert from Armstrong Cheshire explains.  

'An ideal pergola should be around 5ft, or 1.5m away from a fence, for aesthetic purposes. This distance also allows ease in maintaining and constructing the piece. It should also keep things civil with your neighbours as it won't cast shade on their garden.'

Timber pergola with roof

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

Pergola rules to follow

The government has some general rules and regulations called Permitted Development Rights. Abiding by these set grants means minor building works can be carried out on your property without planning permission. Certain factors are taken into account such as property location, outbuilding size and placement.

Black pergola with strings of light bulbs, sofa with cushions, rug and table with plants in pots

(Image credit: Future PLC/Joanna Henderson)

1. Is it in the front or back garden

If considering a pergola without planning permission from a local council it will need to be located at the rear of your property only. 

"The UK law does not allow you to build in front of your home, nor along the side between your home and the boundary fence" adds Simon Wardle

2. The plot size

The next issue to consider is the size of your garden at the rear and what other garden structures are already in place. 

'You can install a pergola if half your garden area of the original home (pre-extension) is not taken up by garden buildings such as sheds or verandas.'

So, if your garden is already kitted out with a large summer house and you are in doubt, measure your remaining outdoor space prior to building. Not only could a pergola cramp the plot, but, if reported building regulators may insist it be dismantled.

3. Pergola size

Modular pergola

(Image credit: Forest)

We've established that if your garden size meets the requirements a pergola can be erected anywhere on the plot. But, if you build very close to a boundary it must not exceed a certain height. 

'If you choose to place the next to fence or wall then it must not be over 2.5 metres tall,' continues Simon.

This measures just short of the height of a professional football goal. Any higher and the pergola may restrict the natural light and view neighbours are entitled to.

'If it is further away than 2 metres, you can stretch the height to 3 metres, if you require that,' adds Simon.

4. Pergola practicalities

Pergolas are subject to some building codes and limitations especially when butting onto boundaries. So, placing one farther away from fences not only allows a little more freedom but will make construction more practical too. There will be no awkward spaces to climb between and no need to remove fence panels during the build temporarily. 

A stand alone pergola set away from garden boundaries can transform a garden plan. Whether it's the main feature or part of a design flow, the structural investment will provide shelter, shade and style to define the garden. 

Outdoor patio sating area with pergola roof and greenergy hanging

(Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Lee)

Where to buy a pergola

FAQs

How do I find out if I need planning permission for a DIY project in my garden? 

Permitted development rights allow the improvement or extension of homes without the need to apply for planning permission. The full report of building rules and regulations can be downloaded on the UK government's Permitted Development Rights for householders: technical guidance

Patio with pergola and hanging planters with dining table and chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Where is the best place to build a pergola?

Asses where the sun falls in your garden throughout the day. The sun rises in the east and then sets in the west so ideally a pergola should be placed wherever the sun falls from mid-afternoon when it's at its strongest. 

Founder of GardeningExpress, Chris Bonnett says: 'We love making the most of the sun when it’s out but It’s really important to have some shade spots in your garden to give yourself a break from the harsh rays.

'Depending on the size of your garden and your budget you may want to consider a pergola. These are great long-term investments for those who do spend a lot of time outside. Their build provides relief from harsh sun but doesn’t completely block it out.'


By sticking to the rules you can sit back and relax under your pergola knowing you'll get plenty of complements and no complaints. 

Contributor

Rachel Homer has been in the interiors publishing industry for over 15 years. Starting as a Style Assistant on Inspirations Magazine, she has since worked for some of the UK’s leading interiors magazines and websites. After starting a family, she moved from being a content editor at Idealhome.co.uk to be a digital freelancer and hasn’t looked back.