Doing Major Outside Alterations needs Good Planning (part 1)

If you’ve moved into a property and inherited a veritable jungle of land around your home – an area that might even run into acres – it can be quite a task sorting the wood from the trees. Literally in some cases!

Regardless of whether you live in a rural or urban setting, putting your mark on the grounds and gardens surrounding your house will have a major influence in defining the character and charm of the place you call home.

So, it’s important to get it right. This will require good planning. Not just any plan, but one that will almost certainly involve establishing various permissions with the authorities.


Gardens with a past

If you own a period character property, the likelihood is that it will be bordered by a variety of period features, like trees and hedges, walls and railings. Over time, these features may have become overlooked or overgrown. But they are all important characteristics and remain an integral part of your land. The onus will be in you to ensure they are preserved or even reinstated. In the case of country properties with more space, there may also be a number of outbuildings or structures within the garden, which may also be in urgent need of maintenance.

Restoring your garden may require time and thought. How did it once look? Is it possible to retain original features? There may be clues all around, in the form of brickwork, dry stone walls and the type of trees and plants.

Nevertheless, there’s plenty to consider before letting anyone loose with diggers and shovels.


Conservation areas

If you live in a conservation area, the property may have been subject to a Conservation Area Appraisal undertaken by the local authority. If you haven’t done so already, it may well be worth making contact with them, to see what useful information they may be sitting on. This may hold important clues as to the original layout and style of the garden – all useful pointers in determining your approach to landscaping in the weeks and months ahead.

You may even own a garden of special historic or archaeological interest. If so, this may be among the 1600 or so sites registered in the National Heritage List for England (NHLE). If you are intending to make changes, then any alterations on gardens carrying this level of status will certainly come under close scrutiny from the relevant planning authority.

Our advice would be to check first with your local planners or even Historic England. They will be able to tell you whether your land is on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. If so, this will determine if any particular controls apply, especially if you are intending to carry out any substantial earth moving or landscaping projects.

Next time, we will look in closer detail at where planning permission may be necessary, including for specific elements of landscaping work.