January 2014

Bike Sheds – need to know!

Early experience with use of the Spokes factsheet about bike sheds shows that many people do not realise that sheds in front gardens have to be of relatively modest proportions and acceptable to the Council’s Planning Department…

Last year, after a great deal of effort and negotiation, the Council agreed that the information in our factsheet [pdf 167k] was ‘appropriate’ and a link to the factsheet is now included in the Council’s planning permission Guidance to Householders [page 12].  The factsheet is also due to be linked from the Council’s cycling web pages [which are being revised, by 31 March].

Sheds/containers installed in front gardens, or outside flats, and in some other circumstances [see factsheet section 2] need planning permission – but until our initiative householders had no way of knowing if their plans would be acceptable or not.

The factsheet lists 5 criteria covering position, size, colour, screening and consultation with neighbours.  The Council has agreed that a shed meeting these criteria would “normally be expected” to receive permission.  This is not a 100% guarantee as every circumstance is different, and likewise a shed exceeding the guidelines might be permitted in some situations.  However it provides a far better level of clarity for the householder than under the Council’s previous ‘no guidelines’ regime.

Many sheds needing permission are in fact installed without it – often householders do not know permission is needed, whilst others are deterred by the staggering £192 charge (laid down by the government).  Usually a modest shed remains unnoticed, but if it is reported to the council they are legally obliged to investigate – and they may then demand an application for restrospective permission or they may hand out an enforcement order to remove the shed.  [However if a shed remains in place for 4 years without an enforcement order, then it has ‘deemed’ permission].

Spokes recently met council officials to see how the new arrangement is working.   There have been some successes, but also several enforcement orders to remove sheds, due to somebody complaining to the council.  In most cases, we reluctantly had to agree that these sheds stood out like a sore thumb due to size and/or colour, and greatly exceeded the factsheet guidelines in one or more respects.

It is tragic that these householders, some of whom may have no alternative to store bikes, are installing sheds which will probably have to be removed if there is a complaint to the Council.  This must be happening purely through a lack of knowledge – no householder is going to buy a shed or container which they know they will be told to remove if someone complains to the Council.  Obviously if they knew the position they would ensure their shed arrangements fitted the factsheet criteria.


It is hard to know the solution to this problem, but here are some ways that you can help…

  • If you hear of anyone thinking of getting a bike shed – make sure they see our factsheet first.  Talk to friends who have bikes about how they store them at home.  We’ve got other useful info too about storage in tenements and flats.
  • If you hear of anyone who has been refused planning permission or been served an enforcement notice – point out the factsheet.  They may be able to modify their arrangements to make permission more likely.  If they have been refused unreasonably we may be able to help – Spokes has assisted several householders to reverse a refusal.
  • The government could make things much easier – right across Scotland – by changing the rules so that sheds/containers which meet appropriate criteria (such as those in our factsheet) count as ‘permitted development.’   Such sheds would then not need planning permission (and a £192 fee).  If the government is serious about wanting 10% of all trips to be by bike by 2020 then such minor rule changes should be made urgently.  If you feel strongly about this, please ask your MSPs to raise it with the Minister.   We already have support from Alison Johnstone MSP (Spokes member) and Jim Eadie MSP, so please cc your email to them also.

THE FIVE CRITERIA – section 4 of the factsheet

“The Council has agreed that, where planning permission is required, applications where the guidelines below have been followed would normally expect to be granted permission. However, applications are always treated on their own merits. Applications which do not fully meet these guidelines might also succeed, but again would depend on the particular circumstances.

  • Consider the best position in the garden not only for your ease of access but also to minimise intrusion into the views of neighbours and of the passing public.
  • Discuss your ideas with your neighbours and try to meet any criticisms they may have about your choice.
  • Keep the size of your shed/container within the most common maximum dimensions of 2.5m long x 1.2m deep x 1.5m high. A mono-pitched roof often has a lower profile than a ridged roof and this can make the structure less obtrusive.
  • Select a colour for the shed/container which is not obtrusive and which fits in with its surroundings. Note that varnish or some coloured wood stains may look too conspicuous, even though a shed is constructed from ‘natural’ wood.
  • Try to screen the shed/container to some degree with planting, a wall, or other discreet means.”




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