Do I need planning permission for a pergola? Experts say it all depends on these 3 things

It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer

Built in garden seating around firepit and under pergola
(Image credit: Future PLC)

While we’re all guilty of making impulsive garden decisions, buying or building a pergola isn't something you should take lightly - especially when you need to understand whether you’ll need planning permission for a pergola or not.

Yes, it’s incredibly easy to be drawn in by the many incredible pergola ideas out there, and it’s even easier to grab your credit card and buy a ready-made pergola or build-your-own kit online. But we’d suggest taking a breath before splurging on a new garden addition, as there are many things you should consider before building a pergola.

For starters, you need to figure out whether you need planning permission. And while you might think that you're in the clear, there are certain instances where you do need planning permission for a pergola. And the last thing we want is for the council to come along and force you to tear it down.

Do I need planning permission for a pergola?

Just as you would double-check planning permission for fences and planning permission for porches, you also need to understand whether you need planning permission for a pergola. After all, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. That’s because most pergolas will qualify under permitted development… but some exceptions exist. So, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

1. How big will the pergola be?

black pergola over an outdoor kitchen, next to outdoor seating area

(Image credit: Suns Lifestyle)

Pergolas come in so many different shapes and sizes, ranging from small corner pergolas to larger pergolas designed to cover outdoor kitchens. And the size of the pergola will ultimately impact whether you need planning permission or not.

Ashley Hainsworth, Director of Cuckooland, explains, ‘You will need to seek planning permission from your local council if the pergola takes up more than 50% of the land around the existing building.’

This is something you seriously need to consider if you have a small garden, as you’ll either need to buy or build a pergola that’s less than half the size of your garden or deal with the costly and potentially lengthy process of obtaining planning permission.

2. Where will you build the pergola?

While the size of your pergola matters, the height and location of your pergola should also be considered before installation.

The rules state that it’s possible to install a three-metre high pergola in your garden without planning permission (and four metres for a pitched roof pergola), but this rule only applies IF you’re building it over two metres away from a neighbouring fence or boundary.

If you’re planning on building a pergola within two metres of your neighbour’s fence or boundary of your home, it can only be two and a half metres high.

Because of this, it’s always best to position your pergola in the middle of your garden or as far away from your neighbours as possible.

Of course, we also understand that some people don’t want to put a pergola in their back garden. But if you’re planning on building a pergola to upgrade your front porch ideas, planning permission may be necessary.

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

(Image credit: Future PLC/Joanna Henderson)

Reilly Gray, Co-Founder at Suns Lifestyle, explains, ‘It may also be required if the pergola is going to be installed to the front of your home, as placing one near the street could be seen as impacting the external appearance of the home.’

With all of this in mind, it’s always a good idea to decide where you’re going to place your pergola before buying it. And, if possible, Sam Jenkinson, pergola expert at Tiger Sheds, suggests seeking advice from a professional.

He says, ‘For the nitty-gritty details tailored to your specific situation, it's always best to chat with your local planning authority or consult a pro.’

3. Where do you live?

While it would be easy to assume that anyone who lives in a house and has spare outside space can build a pergola without planning permission, that’s not the case. Where you live, and even the house you live in, can also affect whether you need planning permission or not.

Reilly explains, ‘If you live in a conservation area or if the structure will be installed to the side of your house between the property and the boundary, you will likely require planning permission depending on the height and permanency of the structure you choose.’

‘Both conservation areas and side spaces between properties are locations where councils want to closely control development, so a pergola would probably need approval first.’

Retractable awning installed on pergola garden structure covering outdoor seating area

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

‘Likewise, planning permission will be required if your property is a designated listed building. Any external changes to a listed building require consent to preserve the historical integrity. Since adding a pergola would count as an external change, listed building rules would apply.’

So, always make sure that you know exactly where you live and the rules surrounding it. This information can be found in the property deeds to your property or obtained from the Land Registry.

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How big can you build a pergola without planning permission?

If you’re building a pergola within two metres of your neighbour’s fence or boundary to your property, it can be no taller than two and a half metres high. However, if you’re building it over two metres away from a fence or boundary, it can be three metres high.

The rules are a little different if you choose to go for a pergola with a pitched roof, however. In that instance, it can be four metres high.

Those aren’t the only rules you need to follow, though. If your pergola is going to take up over 50% of your garden space, you’ll also need planning permission.

Can you put a pergola in your front garden in the UK?

You can only put a pergola in your front garden if you have planning permission from your local council. That’s because adding a pergola to the front of your house can affect the outward appearance of your home, which is often heavily scrutinised by your local council.

With this in mind, most people choose to install pergolas in the back garden, where the rules are a lot more flexible.

So, there you have it. While most people don’t need planning permission for a pergola, it’s always best to check just in case.

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.