October 2013

Spokes Gardens Bike Storage factsheet now in use

The Spokes factsheet on bike storage in gardens has been deemed ‘appropriate’ by Edinburgh Council’s Planning Committee and will now be referenced in the Council’s Planning Guidance to Householders…

There will also be a 6 month trial of its use in case any unexpected problems arise, after which there will be a further report to Committee.


Cycle Storage in Gardens [pdf 167k].

Further information in our Gardens Storage page and our Residential Storage page.

The factsheet gives a whole new level of certainty to householders who have no alternative for bike storage except a shed or container in their front garden – for example in terraced housing with no back garden or no back access.

The factsheet lists 5 guidelines covering positioning, size, colour, screening and liaison with neighbours.  Crucially, it states, “The Council has agreed that, where planning permission is required, applications where the guidelines have been followed would normally expect to be granted permission.”

Of course, there can be exceptional circumstances and so the factsheet has to add, “However, applications are always treated on their own merits.”  In such a case, however, we would expect the planning officer to explain clearly why the application has been rejected despite meeting the guidelines, and the dispute could go to an appeal.

Conversely, applications which exceed the guidelines might well succeed sometimes, but again this would depend on the particular circumstances.


The report to the Committee [pdf 1MB] states…

“The advice provided in the factsheet is considered appropriate.  The factsheet will..

  • Provide greater clarity and certainty for householders by clearly specifying guidelines for the form of cycle storage that will normally be considered acceptable
  • Reduce the number of unsuccessful applications and potential enforcement cases
  • Provide a subsequent reduction in costs through application fees.
  • The factsheet will be supported by inclusion on the Council’s cycling related web pages and mention in the Householder Guidance.”

Cllr Nigel Bagshaw who, along with Cllr Sandy Howat, had asked for the Spokes factsheet to be looked into, welcomed the report and the Planning Department’s recommendations, though pointing out that there was a problem at government level in terms of the rules and particularly the fees which councils had to follow – £192 is very costly to install a bike container which might itself cost less than that!

David Leslie, acting Head of Planning, commended the work of Spokes on this issue.  He agreed there was a need for additional guidance on cycle storage in Edinburgh to assist the wider city objectives, and he confirmed that the factsheet would be referenced on the Council’s website under the Guidance for Householders on planning issues.

In answer to a question he said that since January 2012 [i.e. after the profile of the sheds issue had risen] there had been 27 new shed applications, all of which had succeeded!  There had also been 7 enforcement cases (this is usually when someone complains about a shed and it turns out not to have planning permission) of which 2 had succeeded, 2 had failed, and the others were in process.

The Committee was very harmonious and the motion to approve the report passed unanimously, meaning that the Council now officially considers the factsheet’s contents appropriate and will make it available to the public.


Over the last couple of years Spokes and various local councillors have been involved in supporting families who had nowhere to store bikes except in the front garden – for example in terraced housing with no back garden or no entry to the back.  Several householders had long, costly and very distressing disputes with the Council, lasting many months although those we were involved in ended happily eventually.

Spokes was very concerned at the threat to the council’s intention to encourage people to cycle, as well as at the personal distress we saw in households who felt they were doing the right thing not just for their family’s wellbeing but also for the city.

We persuaded councillors that a compromise was needed between on the one hand transport, health and environmental policies to boost cycle use and, on the other hand, conservation policies.  Councillors also realised it was unreasonable that the current position gave no idea as to whether a given type of shed or container would be acceptable in a particular garden, meaning that householders were faced with a £192 planning application fee [more than the cost of many storage units!] just to find out if they would be rejected.

Spokes therefore prepared a draft factsheet containing the criteria which we felt should be acceptable for front garden bike storage, and Councillors Nigel Bagshaw and Sandy Howat put forward a motion at the Planning Committee asking the department to report on the factsheet.

After some difficult discussions Spokes and the council officers agreed on a version which we are happy with and which clearly states that a shed meeting our 5 specified criteria would ‘normally’ expect to receive permission – and this went to the Committee, with the result above.

Spokes offers sincere thanks to the householders who, sometimes with personal difficulty, put themselves through the ordeals of worrying letters, visits, appeals and so on; to the councillors who assisted them [see story links above]; to Cllrs Bagshaw and Howat for their efforts with the Planning Committee and Officers; Cllr Jim Orr for his work behind the scenes liaising between transport and planning; and the officers from Planning who worked with us to agree a document which we feel will make a real difference.


Locally, we of course await the results of the 6-month trial.  We are also concerned at the length of time being taken by the Council’s pilot project to install onstreet secure bike storage, given that it will not be complete for over two years and there are already other tenements wishing to participate.

However, virtually all the above could be avoided – and the same situation could be prevented in every other Scottish local authority – if the Scottish Government agrees to change the rules for ‘permitted development’  so that sheds/containers for storing bicycles in front gardens, and meeting criteria such as those in our factsheet, are counted as permitted development.  That would remove all the bureaucracy of seeking planning permission and would save the £192 planning application costs.

This is far from an Edinburgh-only problem, as evidenced by similar issues we have come across in several London Boroughs including Ealing and Wandsworth [referenced here].

Spokes member Alison Johnstone MSP is raising this with the government.   If you agree with us, please write to her in support, saying why this matters…  alison.johnstone.msp@scottish.parliament.uk.



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