All new homes need to obtain planning permission, whether speculatively built by developers or commissioned by self-builders. Much misinformation abounds about timber houses not being regarded as permanent and therefore not needing planning permission.
Don’t believe it!
Take a look at our FAQs where you’ll find references to some ancient log buildings – think 1,000 years plus – and ask yourself “Does that sound like it isn’t permanent?”.
Let’s not pretend it will be a simple matter of filling in a form and let’s think about how we can help increase your chances of getting permission.
Find the right place
Firstly, if your dream is living in a log cabin (as many people call them), you need to find the right place. We’ve mentioned elsewhere that the right house in the right place stands a better chance of permission than an ultra modern architect’s dream in a chocolate box village or a rustic log home in an urban street.
A log home is more likely to gain permission in a rural location or a secluded plot that isn’t overlooked or doesn’t form part of a highly urban street scene.
Even so, it’s still possible to get permission amongst brick and rendered properties if there is already a precedent. One of our clients replaced a dilapidated timber Colt house with a log home, so finding something similar greatly improves your chances.
There are some do’s and don’ts, especially if you are not experienced in self-builds:
- Once you’ve decided where you want to build your log home and you’re looking for plots, research the local area to find out if there are already timber buildings you can point to as precedents.
- If you are set on a rural location, check whether there are barns that could be converted and subsequently replaced under what’s known as Class Q (which supports barn conversions). Alternatively there is Paragraph 80 of the National Planning Policy Framework guidance, which can permit an exceptional house in certain circumstances where planning would usually be refused.
- If you’ve found a plot that is in a more urban location and within a development boundary, you may stand a better chance with a contemporary design than a traditional log home – see our blog “What is a log house?” for examples.
- Don’t buy outside a settlement boundary, identified by local plans, as your chance of approval is minimal, unless you are replacing an existing dwelling with something much improved.
- Steer clear of agricultural land unless you are planning to build on a parents’ farm and can accept an agricultural tie. You will have to demonstrate that you intend to work on the farm with a view to taking it over when parents retire.
- Don’t buy land parcelled up for sale as “Possible building plots, subject to planning.” These aren’t as widespread as they once were as people have become aware of the scam but they are still available. Make certain that a plot has outline planning or planning in principle before you commit.
How to describe your new home
We definitely don’t recommend using the term “log cabin” as it’s often accompanied by prejudices about what one is. We’ve heard tales of planners saying “You can’t live in a log cabin.” Well millions of people do, so why not?
Using phrases such as timber construction, timber house, eco friendly and sustainable, all tick certain boxes and improve your chances. We use the term log house or log home to distinguish our homes from the rustic ideal that many people picture. Again, see our blog entitled “What is a log house?”
Emphasise the environment
Our log buildings (not only homes) are produced sustainably, as all Finnish forestry is governed by the Forest Act (see the Environment section on our website). Timber absorbs carbon and once built, a log house is carbon negative until the end of its life (see FAQ’s). It can be constructed to passive house standards if required and planners are more likely to view this favourably.
If in doubt
Gaining planning permission is usually cited as the second biggest hurdle, after finding a plot, that self-builders have to face. That applies to all self-builds and not just log homes though they are regarded as non-traditional by many planners.
If you don’t feel confident about submitting your own planning application or there is any doubt about the plot, use the services of a local architect or planning consultant. The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has lists of consultants in all areas and you can find them here https://www.rtpiconsultants.co.uk/#/