As well as the whole way of rural life, country properties offer much more potential than their urban counterparts. But the town dweller can be at a disadvantage in that his knowledge of the planning rules on house extensions is unlikely to extend to what he may do outside.

What first needs to be understood is that agricultural land and ‘land inciden-tal to the enjoyment of a dwelling house’ are not the same. Regulations on the former are beyond the scope of this article, except to say that permission for change of use is needed to put a tennis court in a field or to extend a garden into farmland.

What one may do in a garden without consent is called ‘permitted development’ and is defined in the Town and Country Planning General Development Order 1995. Allowed are non-domestic or commercial developments such as sheds, tennis courts, swimming pools, ponds and oil tanks with a capacity below 3,500 litres.

But an application is needed if the house is listed or is in a Conservation Area or equivalent, and the structure exceeds 10 cubic metres. Consent will also be required if the building is over 3m high, or 4m if the roof is ridged. No unauthorised building may take place nearer a highway than the main house unless it is more than 20m from the road.

Fences, walls or gates over 2m high (or 1m by a road) need consent as they do if they are within the curtilage of a listed building. Their removal is normally allowed, except where permission would have been required for their original con-struction. Trees may be removed unless they are subject to a Tree Preservation Order or are in a Conservation Area. Separate regulations govern any new access to a highway.

The rules are highly complex and it is safest to check with the local authority before work begins.