How to create a roof garden: can we build a garden on our flat roof and do we need planning permission?

Question: Our house has a flat roof outside our bedroom window. We would like to put a roof garden on it.

We could access it if we changed our bedroom sash window to glass doors. What do we need to do legally?

Answer: Check your title deeds to ensure that there are no restrictive covenants prohibiting such alterations to your property.

A garden will add extra weight to your roof. For example, you may want decking, garden furniture, pots, soil and plants.

For safety reasons you may need a barrier around the perimeter and there will be people using your roof garden.

All this amounts to a lot of weight. Instruct a surveyor or structural engineer to inspect your roof to ensure that it is sound enough to support a roof garden.

You need to deal with planning. Although roof gardens can improve the cityscape and provide habitat for birds, bees and other insects, if it overlooks properties and affects the privacy of those properties, this can cause concern for planning officers. So contact your planning department.

Establish if you need planning consent and, if appropriate, Listed Building Consent and if you are likely to be granted such consent. Building Regulation Consent may also be needed.

Do not start work on your proposed roof garden until you have dealt with these important matters.

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. Questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a solicitor specialising in residential property.

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