More and more people are coming round to the idea of shipping container conversions, which allow them to create a gym, man cave, hobby zone or garden room at minimal cost. 

However, one thing that puts them off investing in former shipping units is not knowing whether they would need to apply for planning permission from the council first. 

Here we explain the rules for you. 

When do you need planning permission?

In the UK, you need planning permission if you are building something new, making a big change to the building, such as fitting an extension, or changing the use of the structure. 

However, you do not need it for outdoor signs and adverts, demolition of buildings, or for industrial premises and warehouses. If the project also has no impact on the neighbours or the environment, it is unlikely you will require permission. 

What does this mean for container conversions?

So, what does this mean when it comes to putting a shipping container on your land and converting it?

This comes down to the use, and location, of the unit. For instance, if it is intended to be a permanent structure, such as a gym or office, you may need to seek permission from the local authority. 

However, if you are simply using it as a temporary measure, this is not the case.

Generally speaking, if the land is yours; the structure is intended to be temporary only, such as a site office; and you do not live in an area or house that is protected, such as an area of outstanding beauty or a listed building, you may not need to apply for planning regulations

If it will not affect traffic, produce lots of noise, reduce light or privacy for your neighbours; the unit is smaller than half of the land surrounding the property and is not connected to permanent utility supplies, such as gas or electrics, this will also support the case you do not require council permission.

Seek advice first

As it is not black and white whether you are required to have planning permission, it is sensible to seek guidance from your local authority before beginning the conversion. 

The planning team will be able to tell you whether your project passes the test of not needing approval, or if you need to send an application in to the local authority.

Even if you don’t require planning permission, it is still a good idea to let the council know what your plans are. This is so you can be certain they are aware of the project and cannot come back to you in a few years making claims about planning applications or saying it doesn’t meet building regulations. 

Do you need building regulations?

Indeed, you should apply for building regulations for your shipping conversion to show it has been built safely. 

This is because building regulations are required for any new building. Before a compliance certificate can be provided for the unit, its plans and specifications need to be thoroughly checked.

Once the local building control team is satisfied the container meets building regulations, you will be handed the certificate and can go ahead with the conversion.

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