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  3. Fences, gates and garden walls

Fences, gates and garden walls

Planning Permission

You will need to apply for planning permission if you wish to erect or add to a fence, wall or gate and:

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  • it would be over 1 metre high and next to a highway used by vehicles (or the footpath of such a highway); or over 2 metres high elsewhere; or
  • your right to put up or alter fences, walls and gates is removed by an article 4 direction or a planning condition; or
  • your house is a listed building or in the curtilage of a listed building.
  • the fence, wall or gate, or any other boundary involved, forms a boundary with a neighbouring listed building or its curtilage.

You will not need to apply for planning permission to take down a fence, wall,or gate, or to alter, maintain or improve an existing fence, wall or gate (no matter how high) if you don't increase its height. In a conservation area, however, you might need planning permission for relevant demolition in a conservation area to take down a fence, wall or gate.

You do not need planning permission for hedges as such, though if a planning condition or a covenant restricts planting (for example, on "open plan" estates, or where a driver's sight line could be blocked) you may need planning permission and/or other consent.

Building Regulations

Fences, walls and gates do not require building regulation approval.

Although building regulations do not apply, the structures must be structurally sound and maintained.

Garden Walls

If the garden wall is classes as a 'party fence wall', and depending on the type of building work you intend to carry out, then you must notify the adjoining owner of the work in respect of the Party Walls Act etc 1996. This does not include wooden fences.

Read more about the Party Walls Act etc 1996

Garden and boundary walls should be inspected from time to time to see if any repairs are necessary, or whether a wall needs rebuilding. Such walls are amongst the most common forms of masonry to suffer collapse, and they are unfortunately one of the commonest causes of death by falling masonry. Your insurances may not cover you if the wall has been neglected.

Besides the general deterioration and ageing of a masonry wall over the years, walls may be affected by:

  • An increase in wind load or driving rain if a nearby wall is taken down.
  • Felling of nearby mature trees or planting of new trees close to the wall.
  • Changes leading to greater risk of damage from traffic.
  • Alterations, such as additions to the wall or removal of parts of the wall e.g. for a new gateway.

Safe heights for walls of different thicknesses

You are advised to seek expert advice on the safety of any wall which exceeds the height limits given below for your area of the UK.

In very sheltered situations and where piers have been used taller walls may be acceptable.

 Zone 1 Zone 2 Zone 3 Zone 4
Wall Thickness Max. Height (mm) Wall Thickness Max. Height (mm) Wall Thickness Max Height (mm) Wall Thickness Max. Height (mm)
½ Brick¹ 525 ½ Brick¹ 450 ½ Brick¹ 400 ½ Brick¹ 375
1 Brick² 1450 1 Brick² 1300 1 Brick² 1175 1 Brick² 1075
1½ Brick³ 2400 1½ Brick³ 2175 1½ Brick³ 2000 1½ Brick³ 1825
100mm Block 450 100mm Block 400 100mm Block 350 100mm Block 325
200mm Block 1050 200mm Block 925 200mm Block 850 200mm Block 775
300mm Block 2000 300mm Block 1825 300mm Block 1650 300mm Block 1525

¹ = 100mm; ² = 215mm; ³ = 325mm.

Things to check

  1. Is the surface of the brickwork crumbling away? - If restricted to a few bricks this may not be serious but walls can be weakened by general crumbling across either face.
  2. Is the mortar pointing in good condition? - If the hard surface layer can be picked out from the joint, or if the mortar can easily be scraped out with, say, a door key, then this is a good indication that the wall may need repointing.
  3. Is there a tree near the wall? - As trees mature, there is a risk of the wall being damaged by the roots, and from wind-blown branches. Damaged sections may have to be re-built, perhaps with bridges incorporated to carry the wall over the roots. Removal of large trees can also lead to problems because the soil accumulates more moisture and expands.
  4. Is the wall upright? - Walls lean for a variety of causes, due for example to failure below ground caused by tree roots, a cracked drain, frost damage to the foundations or inadequate foundations. If your wall leans to an extent that could present a danger e.g. more than 30mm (half brick wall), 70mm (single brick wall) or 100mm (brick and a half wall) it is recommended that expect advice is sought. This may involve checking of the wall foundations.
  5. Is the wall thick enough for its height? - The map and table below give guidance on how high walls should be in different parts of the UK relative to their thickness. Seek expert advice if your wall exceeds the recommended height, or in circumstances whereby this guidance is inapplicable e.g. walls incorporating piers, or walls supporting heavy gates or retaining soil.
  6. Some climbing plants, like ivy, can damage walls of growth is unchecked. - Consider cutting them back and supporting regrowth clear of the wall.
  7. Is the top of the wall firmly attached? - Brick cappings or concrete copings may be loose or there may be horizontal cracks (frost damage) in the brickwork a few courses down. Loose or damaged masonry near the top of the wall will need to be rebuilt.
  8. Has the wall been damaged by traffic? - Minor scratch marks or scoring of the surface may obscure more significant cracks. Piers at vehicular entrances may have been dislodged by impact and be unsafe; in such cases they should be rebuilt.
  9. Are there any cracks in the wall? - Hairline cracks (0-2mm across) are common in walls and may not indicate serious problems. For wider cracks seek expert advice; some may indicate a need for partial or complete rebuilding. Seek advice on any horizontal cracks which pass right through a wall or any cracks close to piers or gates. Repointing of cracks can lead to problems. Do not repoint without establishing the cause of the cracking.

Disclaimer

This is an introductory guide and is not a definitive source of legal information. Read the full disclaimer here.

This guidance relates to the planning regime for England. Policy in Wales may differ. If in doubt contact your Local Planning Authority.