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I Want To Alter The Area Round My House

Most older houses have at least a back yard or garden, and many have front gardens to separate the house from the street. Large or small, this outdoor space provides the setting for your house - the surroundings that enable people to appreciate it and can add to its interest.

If you live in a town or city, even a small outside space may have historic features – old walls or an iron gate. In the country, gardens are often larger, with interesting outbuildings or garden structures. The space at the front usually plays the most significant part in the setting of your house, your street and local area.

Three adjoining red brick cottages with red tiled roofs, on a sloping road, each roof higher than the one to the right. The sash windows have white wooden frames and the middle cottage's front garden is full of low shrubs such as lavender


You may need consent to make changes to the area round your house. If your house is listed, structures in the garden such as walls and outbuildings are usually also protected, so you may need consent before you remove or alter them.

Major landscaping or engineering work usually needs planning permission. Your local authority has to take into account the effect of such work on the setting and the area, particularly if your house is listed or in a conservation area. Be aware of issues such as drainage when creating hard features that will alter the way the rain is soaked up.

New parking space

You need planning permission to lower the kerb in front of your house, and to use impermeable materials such as concrete for the parking space. You may also need consent if you want to take down a wall (see section below).

The government has issued guidance on parking on front gardens because this can cause environmental problems. See the government's Planning Portal: Paving Front Garden.

Walls and boundaries

If your house is listed, or you are in a conservation area, you are likely to need consent to remove all or part of the front wall. Boundaries are often as old as your house, and walls and railings have historic and architectural value. Some boundaries and gateways are listed in their own right. Repair is usually better than replacement, and keeping old gates, fences and walls will conserve the character of your house, garden and the street.

Looking along a row of identical railings from the pavement outside the steps of a Victorian terraced house. The steps are tiled in a black and white diamond pattern.

If you intend to build a new wall or fence, you need planning permission if your house is listed, or if it’s required by an Article 4 Direction in a conservation area. For other situations, you need permission for anything over 1 metre high next to a public highway or over 2 metres high elsewhere. There is more information on the government's Planning Portal: Fences, Walls and Gates.

Design is important and for historic settings it's important to use materials that go with your house, and that fit in with the local area. Look around your neighbourhood and follow local traditions, be they flint and brick, panelled brickwork, or drystone walls. When planting a new hedge, choosing an appropriate species for your house and area can enhance its character.


If you want to cut down or lop a tree protected by a tree preservation order (TPO) or a tree in a conservation area you must notify your local planning authority first. If you are worried that a tree is endangering your house, a professional arboriculturalist can assess the tree’s condition, or check that the roots are not a problem.

Think about wildlife and avoid work to trees and hedges in the nesting season. Some animal species are protected, and you will need advice if bats are going to be affected. For information on trees and hedges see the government's Planning Portal: Trees and Hedges.

A thatched front porch to a stone-built cottage, with dark wooden posts, hanging baskets and shrubs lining the path to the house

Historic Gardens

The 1,600 most important historic gardens and landscapes in England are on a register included in the National Heritage List for England (NHLE). Their special interest will be taken into account in the planning process when decisions on applications are being made. Other gardens can be locally important and may be on your local authority’s register of historic gardens. To find out more see Registered Parks and Gardens.

If your garden is important for its historic design or archaeology, find out more about it before planning alterations. If you live in an area where there is important archaeology and you intend to make changes to your garden, first check with your local planning authority or Historic England to see if it is on the register of Historic Parks and Gardens or designated as a Scheduled Monument and whether any controls apply - for example, where works such as earth-moving/landscaping is being proposed.

Even if it isn't designated it is worth checking with your local planning authority before carrying out works. If it's particularly significant you may need professional advice on research or design.

Even if you don’t need formal permission for outside work and your garden is not large, it’s worth finding out about its history and what it used to look like.

Old maps and photographs might show old railings, gates or pathways: features like this are worth restoring and can improve the look of your house. For help with garden research there are specialist websites, including one on kitchen gardens. See the Walled Kitchen Gardens Network's FAQs. The Garden History Society may also be able to advise.

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