Is Britain blighted by bike sheds?

Last week, the Guardian’s Bike Blog editor, Peter Walker, reported on the paradoxical situation that Brighton residents find themselves in whereby Brighton’s Green Council encourages them to cycle but takes away their ability to store their bikes safely and securely.

National regulations require anyone hoping to erect an ‘outbuilding’, such as a bike shed, in front of their house to obtain planning permission. However, if you don’t live in a conservation area, you do not need planning permission to turn your front garden into a driveway for you to leave your car on. Sounds crazy, right?

Not being able to put a fairly inoffensive shed in your front garden to safely store bikes presents an additional barrier to cycling for many people. It means that they either have to store their bikes inside the house, which is impractical during inclement weather, or in the back garden, which is unsafe and bad for the bikes. It also makes the bikes less accessible, thus adding an additional and awkward stage to any journey.

Councillors on Brighton Council said that, like most other planning authorities in the country, they believe sheds in front gardens ‘ruin the street scene’. Walker pointed out that the opinion that a bike shed ruins the street scene is subjective as it depends on how you view the street. In his opinion, a small shed is ‘considerably less intrusive than a parked car,’ yet the streets are full of parked cars.

It would appear that there is a country-wide ban on sheds in front gardens, yet, according to John Silvester from the Planning Officers Society, planning officers can actually exercise discretion. He said: ‘Enforcement is always a matter of judgement with regard to existing structures; a local planning authority needs to consider whether it is expedient and in the public interest to take enforcement action.’

What’s more, the Department for Communities and Local Government, which is responsible for planning nationally, said: ‘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.’

So, in theory, councils can permit sheds to be erected in front gardens, but this decision relies heavily on the subjective opinion of those granting planning permission as to whether bike sheds are visually amenable or not.

CDF is currently investigating how individuals affected by this piece of planning legislation might be able to challenge it.

If you are affected, please contact CDF to discuss your case.

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