Brighton & Hove council grants bike shed reprieve

U-turn too late for one householder, though – was council’s inflexible stance justified?

by Simon_MacMichael   August 5, 2014  

Not In Your Front Yard - Brighton planning officers wage war on sheds

Brighton & Hove City Council has given a temporary reprieve to a family who last month received an enforcement letter telling them to take down a bike shed erected in their front garden because it contravened planning regulations.

Initial reports last month were that 21 families in and around Bates Road had been ordered to dismantle bike sheds, with the story even making The Guardian, but now it transpires that just two residents received letters, reports Brighton and Hove News.

One of them, Kieran Barnard, reacted to news of the council putting its application on hold by saying: “We are delighted because we were expecting a red letter from the council any day, so that gives a bit of breathing space.

“We understand the council’s position in a way, because there shouldn’t be a planning free for all, but by this token we want a local development plan to include bike sheds.

“It’s a bit of a shame that it’s taken a public outcry. But what was really nice was all the comments from the public which have been overwhelmingly in favour of the residents.”

The other householder served with an enforcement letter, Tom Atkins, has already taken down his bike shed since he was unable to secure retrospective planning permission.

Conservative Councillor Ann Norman intervened on behalf of residents to try and get the council to change its stance.

She said: “Our discussions with officers have resulted in an agreement for planning officers to explore options to find out how other local authorities deal with similar issues with bike storage and whilst these discussions are taking place, enforcement to remove the two bike sheds mentioned above will be put on hold.”

As Peter Walker noted in a piece on The Guardian Bike Blog last week, Brighton & Hove City Council is the country’s first Green Party-run local authority. He asked the council why it was taking such stringent action against certain households, not others.

In email correspondence with what he described as “a surprisingly hostile press officer,” he was told the council was simply enforcing regulations that apply nationally.

The council official said: “We can categorically state with 100% certainty that no politicians from any party have been involved in initiating any enforcement actions over sheds in front gardens.”

Asking whether the council could not exercise some discretion, the journalist was told that the Town and Country Planning Act permitted no flexibility, with the press officer adding: “We would expect some people to be disappointed that they cannot have a shed in their front garden but it’s unfair to characterise officials as unhelpful.

“This planning authority, like most in the country, is open about its view that sheds in front gardens ruin the street scene and we’re unlikely to help people do that.”

But the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) which is responsible for planning at national level, while agreeing that people are not normally permitted to build sheds in their front gardens, added: “Where permitted development rights do not exist a householder can still apply for planning permission.

“Planning guidance tells councils to be supportive of the need for bike storage – provided it is designed in a discreet way that does not harm visual amenity.”

Mr Atkins remains angry about the council’s position, however. He said: “The judgment in our own planning application wasn’t really to do with national legislation, it seemed a personal judgment by the planning officer saying, ‘We think the impact on the street scene outweighs the sustainable transport implications

He went on: “I’m a Guardian reader, I’m pretty well disposed towards the Greens. But this, to me, isn’t a question of political ideology, it’s about competence. If they had any control over the council they were running they would be able to do something about this issue. As it stands they’re washing their hands of it.”

21 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Nice to see a picture of an Asgard shed, having got one myself, they are about as discreet as they can be. It's not like they are 6' tall and block peoples views or anything.

I suspect the same council have nothing to say about people leaving rubbish/cars/bins etc in their front gardens - but bike storage - now that's really naughty.

posted by sergius [181 posts]
5th August 2014 - 15:21


Unfortunately, planning legislation offers no opportunity for discretion in this sort of matter. If it's development of any kind to the front of the dwelling it'll need planning permission. The first question is whether it is 'development'. If it is fixed to the ground and is permanent, then it probably is. The next question is whether the Council should approve any such applications or not. That's when the planners, their policies and Councillors can send a message that they support such sustainable modes of transport. The press officer's conflation of the law with their Council's planning policies is somewhat worrying though. Not helpful.


posted by arrieredupeleton [582 posts]
5th August 2014 - 15:35


quite simple, purpose built bicycle storage (i.e. actually marketed as bicycle storage and not just a suggested use) should be permissible provided it is below a certain height and is green or otherwise muted colur which matches the surroundings.

posted by Paul_C [293 posts]
5th August 2014 - 17:54


A commenter on the guardian had a great idea:

If neighbours complain about you building a bike shed in your front garden because it ruins the street scene, park a big clapped out van on the street to store your bikes in that.

After all nothing must get in the way of the right to a road blocking parking space.

posted by cub [71 posts]
5th August 2014 - 19:12


Paul_C wrote:
quite simple, purpose built bicycle storage (i.e. actually marketed as bicycle storage and not just a suggested use) should be permissible provided it is below a certain height and is green or otherwise muted colour which matches the surroundings.
I completely agree. We talk a lot about cycle infrastructure and safe routes, but of equal importance to encouraging mass cycling is how easy it is to just hop onto your cycle and go. When there's a car parked outside the house on the road (as they are on Bates Road) and you have to struggle with a bike through the kitchen and hallway or haul it up from a basement, there is a huge disincentive to use the bike for your journey. That is why convenient bike storage accessible from the front of the house must be made a requirement in all new developments. I've been thinking of installing one myself at the front.
I have just strolled down Bates Road with Google Street View. The road is not all that long, but I counted 12 or 13 bikes chained to railings in front of properties or in the front gardens, many of them on the steps that lead up to many of the front doors. There is clearly a great need for secure cycle storage on this road, and all those bikes are exposed to the elements and vulnerable. It is a road of terraced housing, I guess between the wars or around WW1 times, some of the houses have flat access to front doors but many have steep steps up, and many have both steps up and down to those half basement areas.
The two bike sheds are wooden and of the pentashed sort, just tall enough for a bike or lawn mower, like the photo but wooden. One is painted attractively, one natural wood. Not ideal, appearance-wise, but not overly indiscreet, IMHO. A shame one has been removed already.
The road has a lot of neat gardens etc. but also has a number of untidy front yards with rubbish and a rundown or abandoned commercial garage. The sheds do not 'ruin the street scene'. It also appears to be dustbin day in the Google photos -- but as those steps would be too steep to take a loaded bin up or down, most of them must be permanent fixtures at the front.
Let us hope that the discussions at the council and the residents desire for a local development plan to include bike sheds come to fruition.

posted by arowland [111 posts]
5th August 2014 - 19:17


scapin etika RC in a tin box in the front yard.. dont make any sense to me.

posted by steven miles [23 posts]
5th August 2014 - 19:32


When I lived in the UK I found that the planning regulations were rather bizarre. A friend of mine lived in inner East London, in a nice enough townhouse in a block that was originally a street of almshouses. There was nothing whatsoever unique or interesting about the street, but because someone had decided they were culturally of interest, they could not be painted certain colors or even have double glazing installed.

Really? A Georgian cottage with a thatched roof, I can understand. But a drab, nondescript bunch of old houses that used to house the poor? Silly.

posted by Gordy748 [99 posts]
5th August 2014 - 19:49


"First Green Party-run local authority. "

Odd. Target the people who might vote for your policies Thinking

posted by Cyclist [307 posts]
5th August 2014 - 19:50


This is the answer. Brighton, are you up for it (commitment and funding)?

posted by chiefsub68 [6 posts]
5th August 2014 - 21:01


Perfectly ok to knock your front wall down, pave over green space, drive a huge metal box on wheels across a footpath and then just leave it in front of your house.
But a bike shed?

posted by Some Fella [888 posts]
5th August 2014 - 22:12


If only the shed was shaped to look like 4 conjoined wheelie bins of different colours it wold have been fine.
And a sodding eyesore, unlike its actual design.

posted by racyrich [186 posts]
5th August 2014 - 23:23


Technically true but you can't pass/re-pass unless you have a dropped kerb installed. I'm an enforcement officer (not planning before someone jumps on me; I chase fly-tippers and the like) and have a vague recollection that if it is a 'temporary structure' it does not require permission. So stick a wheel at each corner and perhaps argue that all you need to is un-bolt from the floor and it could be wheeled away (ahem). Or buy a shonky old caravan and use that. That'll please the neighbours. Applause

posted by AndreasHolden [14 posts]
6th August 2014 - 9:19


Above was meant to include reference to Some Fella's comment, not quite got the hang of this blogging malarkey!

posted by AndreasHolden [14 posts]
6th August 2014 - 9:23


Have to say, I think the council officers have got this wrong, and they need to be challenged.

A bike store is not a shed, and is not a permanent structure. I can't see why planning permission is required.

By the council's same stance, wheelie bins in Brighton & Hove should require planning permission if kept in the front garden, as they certainly spoil the 'street scene'.

posted by leewalton [21 posts]
6th August 2014 - 9:52


racyrich wrote:
If only the shed was shaped to look like 4 conjoined wheelie bins of different colours it wold have been fine.
And a sodding eyesore, unlike its actual design.

Or design it like a car with blacked out windows... no wheels needed just breeze blocks.

posted by jacknorell [848 posts]
6th August 2014 - 10:04


Don't understand what this is about, you don't need planning permission for an outbuilding so long as it;

- is single story
- is less than 2.5m tall
- is less than 15 square metres floor area
- has no sleeping accommodation

Does Brighton and Hove have some kind of local restrictions on outbuildings?

posted by qwerky [163 posts]
6th August 2014 - 10:45


It's the bit you missed that's important:

No outbuilding on land forward of a wall forming the principal elevation.

Translated from plannerese, that means, "No outbuildings in front of your house, you plebs - you should have bought a nice semi with a big back garden. Can't afford one? Tough."

John Stevenson's picture

posted by John Stevenson [1468 posts]
6th August 2014 - 11:22


I blame Thatcher

Leodis's picture

posted by Leodis [307 posts]
6th August 2014 - 11:47


John Stevenson wrote:
Translated from plannerese, that means, "No outbuildings in front of your house, you plebs - you should have bought a nice semi with a big back garden. Can't afford one? Tough."

£350k won't get you a house on Bates Road these days. Not many plebs in that part of Brighton any more, young professionals and their families for the most part, and most of the bikes do the run to Brighton and Preston Park Stations for the commute, whilst the car sits on the pavement outside ready for the nursery/school run.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [393 posts]
6th August 2014 - 14:24


John Stevenson wrote:
No outbuilding on land forward of a wall forming the principal elevation.

Ah, but a bike store (if its done right) is not an outbuilding. It is a box. It is movable (with a degree of effort). Ergo, permissible.

posted by leewalton [21 posts]
6th August 2014 - 15:30


A number of houses in this Bates Road have porches that come out as far as the bay window. Is this the answer?

The council can't very well knock you back as the precedent has already been set. Doesn't help those with basements I know but it will help some.

posted by levermonkey [505 posts]
7th August 2014 - 10:42