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Tips & Tricks to Build a New Home in your Garden

The latest release of the London Plan stresses the importance of meeting growing housing needs as the population continues to rapidly increase, and with issues such as homelessness and the rise of social housing, backland developments in suburban and rural areas are slowly but surely becoming an unparalleled investment opportunity.

20 December 2021
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Eugene Kim

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If you are one of the fortunate people with access or ownership to a large plot of land, you may unknowingly have an incredible investment opportunity at your fingertips.

A backland development is, in simple terms, the process of splitting your private land into multiple, individual plots and constructing one or more new dwellings in your garden. 

With ongoing research demonstrating the rapidly increasing population, the government, both nationally and locally, are searching for new opportunities to provide additional housing. Thanks to this, obtaining planning permission for an additional house in your garden is easier than ever, with many lucky individuals jumping into the realm of property development.

That being said, strict policies such as the Green Belt make building in open areas very difficult. One of the best ways of meeting the increased demand is, therefore, building in already developed areas or on brownfield sites – sites which have a past life but are currently vacant. In addition, there are countless local and regional policies that you must consider when planning the outlines of your scheme, which makes it so important to choose the right architect who shares your enthusiasm but has all the knowledge to turn your dream into a reality.

For decades, those with large garden plots to the rear or side of their property have imagined utilising the space to its full potential by creating an additional house, and with the local and national government finally understanding the importance of intensification, there is no better time than now to act upon it.

Have you noticed in recent years that the amount of backland developments popping up has increased over 10 times? If you have access to a large plot of land, you may be resting on a potential goldmine investment opportunity without even knowing!


New Build Dwelling in Worcester Park, Epsom & Ewell
New Build Dwelling in Worcester Park, Epsom & Ewell, by Extension Architecture 2021 

What Matters Most:

Local Authorities across the UK will only consider your proposed backland development if key criteria are met throughout the design process in order to protect what is existing and ensure that your scheme does not upset the balance of local character, the natural environment, and local residents’ right to amenity.



The key factors to consider throughout your design development are:


One of the deciding factors in whether the local council will support your planning application is how your proposed site will be accessed from the existing street.

Several council policies exist to ensure that vehicular access is made possible to these sites, and in almost all cases include references to safe parking, access for emergency services, noise impact on neighbours, and site security.



The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and most local guidelines suggest that new buildings or extensions should not cover more than 50% of your existing land, which is sometimes a major issue when it comes to obtaining planning permission.

Further to this, it is important to compare the amount of private amenity space proposed for both the host dwelling and your new build with the minimums set out in most council’s urban design guide or Supplementary Planning Guidance documents (SPGs). For example, in Sutton, any development which proposes over 3 bedrooms should provide a minimum of 70 sqm of private amenity space.

Most garden plots are within close proximity to your neighbours, therefore it is also important to leave adequate space between any proposed development and your property boundary to ensure that the impact on your neighbour is minimised. This is usually considered around 9m, or 13m from your neighbour’s flank wall, but can differ between local authorities.

Light & Overlooking

When building so close to both your property and your neighbours’, the council will take an independent stance on your planning application and even judge the proposal on the impact the development will have on the host dwelling.

The reason for this is to ensure that any future occupants have adequate access to natural light and are also protected from overlooking. Likewise, they expect you to demonstrate that your home and your neighbour’s properties will not be affected by the development.

Parking & Refuse Management

Another important factor is parking and refuse collection. Local authorities use what is known as PTAL (Public Transport Accessibility Levels) to determine the amount of required parking provision for new build properties. Further to this, you must provide adequate cycle parking and refuse (waste) storage & collection points.

All of these policies and provisions can be difficult to navigate if you have not done so before, hence an experienced architect and planning consultant can help you to achieve the best outcome.

Sustainable & Considerate Design

Any proposed development also needs to reflect the character of the local area, but a modern interpretation is often encouraged depending on your local council!

All local authorities have their own policies and guidelines to follow, hence there is a lot of flexibility nation-wide when it comes to designing backland developments. For example, Croydon council is publicly open to contemporary design approach, whereas council’s such as Kensington & Chelsea are more strict given the many heritage and conservation assets in the borough. Navigating these policies and debating with the council can be tricky, but with the right methodology and strong architects on your side who know the process inside-out, they can work to your advantage.

New Build Property in Worcester Park, Epsom & Ewell
New Build Property in Worcester Park, Epsom & Ewell, by Extension Architecture 2021

Land to Look Out for:

Corner Plots

Corner plots are often a great opportunity for developing one or multiple new properties. Where your property line meets the adjacent road is great for accessibility, and as long as you look to improve the street scene, either through modern interpretation or maintaining the existing character of the area, it is often the easiest of plot typologies to obtain planning permission.

Factors to consider include proximity to neighbouring houses and how you intend to divide the land.

Large Garden Plots

Large Garden plots are another great option – especially if a row of houses all share the same size of garden. By creating either a singular driveway or even an entire new road, planning permission does come with its challenges, but it’s not impossible!

Factors to consider are if you are in a green belt, a conservation area or there are any TPOs (Tree Protection Orders) on the land you wish to develop.

New Build Property in Worcester Park, Epsom & Ewell blueprint
New Build Property in Worcester Park, Epsom & Ewell, by Extension Architecture 2021

Vacant Land

Many areas of the UK have seemingly empty land at the back or in-between existing developments. This could simply be waste or forest land, but sometimes it is in the land register as belonging to an individual, adjacent property.

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in a position where you either already own the rights to this land, or are able to acquire them, depending on the conditions of the site you may be in possession of a great development opportunity as long as you can demonstrate all of the requirements of the LPA!

New Build Property in Worcester Park, Epsom & Ewell design

New Build Dwelling in Worcester Park, Epsom & Ewell, by Extension Architecture 2021

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Eugene Kim

Eugene Kim, Founder and Managing Director of Extension Architecture, has led the firm for over 14 years, consistently delivering quality solutions. His dedication has been key to the company's growth and success.

Steph Fanizza, Architectural Design & Team Manager

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