July 2024

Bike storage: gardens

This page concentrates on the legal and planning permission aspects of bike sheds in gardens, particularly front gardens.  See also our page on bike storage for tenement and flat dwellers, which includes some information on suppliers of sheds/containers and our page about onstreet secure bike storage.


1. Do you need planning permission for a shed/container?

2. More info on installing a garden bike shed

3. History – Spokes efforts to improve the rules for front garden bike sheds in Edinburgh

4. History – Spokes 5+ year successful campaign to get Scottish Government regulations changed so that modest-sized front garden are considered ‘permitted development’

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  • We recommend Edinburgh Council’s Quick Guide to Sheds in gardens.   This is one of several Edinburgh Council Quick Guides on planning issues.
  • Generally speaking, a front garden shed of dimensions up to 1.5m high x 1.2m deep x 2.5m wide has ‘permitted development rights’ (PDR) and so will not need planning permission – this includes in Conservation Areas.  However, you still need planning permission for a shed/container of any size in the site of a listed building or in Edinburgh’s World Heritage area
  • For back gardens, there are more generous rules, whilst there are added complexities for tenement-dwellers who do not individually own a private garden
  • In all cases, it is important to read the full conditions in the above Council guide, and our further suggestions below
  • If you need a garden shed which exceeds front or back garden permitted development criteria, you must apply for planning permission – costing approximately £200 even if permission is refused
  • Garden sheds are also referenced in the Council’s document Guidance for Householders [page 15].  This is one of a series of Planning Guidance and Planning Guidelines documents
  • There is extensive advice on householder permitted development rights (including sheds) in this Government document: Guidance On Householder Permitted Development Rights: Updated 2021
  • Note that following our successful campaign (see below) for a change in Scottish Government document development’ rules, to allow modest sized sheds in front gardens without seeking planning permission, the former Spokes factsheet (para 1310 below) is no longer necessary or up-to-date.

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Be neighbourly!  Not all councils wanted the change of rules, and if the rules are abused there will be pressure to reverse them
  • Site your shed to minimise visual intrusion for neighbours and the passing public
  • Discuss your ideas with your neighbours and try to meet any criticisms
  • A mono-pitched roof often has a lower profile than ridged, making the structure less obvious
  • Select a colour which fits the surroundings.  Varnish and some coloured stains can be very conspicuous, even if the shed is ‘natural’ wood
  • Screen the shed/container where possible, e.g. with planting, a wall, or other discreet means.
Other permissions [the information below is our understanding – contact the Planning Department if necessary]
  • The Council Quick Guide states that a building warrant is not normally necessary for sheds.  However we suggest you confirm with them if you have any doubts, or if your shed will be less than 1m from your house or your boundary wall in which case there may be concern over the potential for any fire to spread.
  • Listed Building Consent may be needed if the shed/container is on the site of a listed building.  For more on listed buildings, see historicenvironment.scot/advice-and-support/listing-scheduling-and-designations/listed-buildings
What if things go wrong?
Bike shed security
  • Garden sheds/containers can be a target for thieves.  Even metal containers can be at risk, and some have weak points known to expert bike thieves
  • Front gardens are most susceptible to theft and many people opt for a quality metal store from Asgard or Trimetal.  These two companies dominate the market and are widely seen around Edinburgh.  However, even these sheds can be broken into by thieves, so bikes should still be locked inside these containers, ideally with a secure mounting to a ground anchor or heavy object.   There are cheaper versions available from the major retailers, but you probably get what you pay for in quality terms.  You might like to look at www.shedstore.co.uk/storage/bike-storage for something of an overview of products.
  • If you erect a store at the rear of your house, maybe you feel that you could drop to timber, in which case try Mark’s Sheds at Gorebridge, or probably a less expensive shed at Simply Sheds on Old Dalkeith Road, near Danderhall, or even just Argos or Screwfix!
  • If you have no security concerns you could consider a simple waterproof cover, such as those from Bike Cave and other similar lightweight products, usually costing under £100,
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Note: Paragraph numbers represent year and month; e.g. 2011 means November 2020

2104 Following the government change of PDR rules (see next History section) Edinburgh Council publishes its Quick Guide to Sheds in gardens to advise householders of the new regulations

2011 CEC Planning Committee 2.12.20  Council response to govt consultn [2010 above] opposed PDR [see appendix 2]  Cllr Booth motion to support PDR   Spokes briefing for councillors  SNP/Lab/Con opposed, and motion lost (but government expected to go ahead anyway)  Tweet thread from the meeting.

1706 CEC Guidance for Householders revision consultation – see para 1706 on our local policy submissions page.

1410 Spokes factsheet, one-year review Planning Cttee report.  Few cases so far, so recommends further 2-year trial.   Also useful comments on colony bike sheds [3.4-3.5].

1310 Spokes factsheet ‘considered appropriate‘ by Planning Committee and will be mentioned in the Council’s guidance to householders on planning issues.  See news item for more background.

Spokes 2013 Factsheet:  Cycle Storage in Gardens [pdf 212k]

Status of Factsheet:   The Planning Committee report 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.”

1305 Edinburgh Council Planning Committee approved a motion by Cllr Nigel Bagshaw, seconded by Cllr Sandy Howat, instructing officers to investigate Spokes proposals on garden bike storage.  Spokes has prepared a draft factsheet [Oct 2013 update – the finalised version is now above] to improve clarity for householders, reduce the likelihood of abortive applications or enforcement notices to remove sheds, and reduce costs.  Also a paper on steps the Council could take to make garden storage easier [doc 20k].

12xx  Our initiative to prepare a factsheet on garden sheds was prompted by several distressing cases where people wishing to use bikes to get around the city had great difficulty in getting permission to install a garden shed/container, and/or were served with an enforcement notice to remove an existing storage unit.   See our original story [26.9.12] and some of the eventual outcomes [19.12.12] following great efforts by the householders, local councillors and Spokes.  Council briefing document on current rules and examples of unauthorised sheds [we accepted some, not all, of these were inappropriate].

1212 Bike sheds in Colony-style housing   Council report – as a result of the consultation below the proposed shed size requirements were removed and instead shed applications “will be considered on their merits” [2.15].

1210  Bike sheds in Colony-style housing   In 2012 the Council consulted on granting conservation status to Edinburgh’s colony housing areas.  It proposed height and volume restrictions on garden sheds.   Spokes response  Response by Flower Colonies Residents’ Assn.

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Our 5-year persistent campaign, eventually successful, was initiated as a result of our experiences in assisting householders with distressing local Edinburgh cases, as in the above section (e.g. para 12xx) – indeed the campaign took 9 years if these early Edinburgh actions are included.  We were delighted, as the years passed, to receive growing support and valuable interventions from other organisations, notably the Scottish Parliament Cross-Party Cycling Group, Cycling Scotland, Cycling UK Scotland and MSPs including Alison Johnstone MSP and Sarah Boyack MSP; but Spokes can claim considerable credit for understanding the need for change, then initiating and maintaining the necessary campaign.   Meanwhile in England we see ongoing complaints from affected individuals in local areas but, as yet, no sign of the necessary changes to government regulations, or indeed any concerted campaign to achieve that.

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1301 Ealing Cycling Campaign has published a tremendous paper Secure Cycle Storage in Residential Front Gardens [pdf 1.2MB]  highlighting exactly the same issues, and the steps already being taken and discussed by the London Borough Councils of Ealing and Wandsworth to address these problems.  Of course, the document is based on English law, albeit that there are close parallels with Scottish in this context.