Understanding Planning Permissions for Temporary Structures Back to Blog

Understanding Planning Permissions for Temporary Structures

Temporary structures are not required to meet the same standards as permanent structures. However, there are rules that they must meet, and planning permission is often required to install temporary structures. This article is intended as an overview so that readers may gain an understanding of the planning permissions for temporary structures. However, you should always check your local jurisdiction’s rules before putting up a temporary structure.

When You Need Planning Permission

In general, you’ll need planning permission if the structure is semi-permanent. If it will be standing for more than 28 days, you need planning permission regardless of its size.

You’ll typically need planning permission if the structure is very large. If the temporary structure is larger than 100 meters square, you need planning permission. If the temporary building exceeds 25% of the size of the facility, you typically need planning permission.

If it comes within five meters of facility’s boundary, you’ll need planning permission. If the temporary structure eliminates a large part of the parking available on the structure or interferes with the ability of vehicles to manoeuvre on the property, you’ll likely need permission from the
planning office.

When You Don’t Need Planning Permission

Planning permission is typically not required if the building is both smaller than 100 meters squared and will be up for less than 28 days straight.

You may not need planning permission if the “temporary” structure is really an extension of an existing building. For example, if the temporary structure is directly relevant to the original structure, shorter than the original building and/or less than a quarter of the size of the original
building, you may not need permission. For example, if you have a bathroom trailer parked next to the building so that you can provide necessary facilities for your staff while the main bathrooms are renovated and it doesn’t interfere with traffic and parking, you may not need permission.

Refurbishing an existing building typically doesn’t need planning permission. For example, if you had permission for a storage shed somewhere that was hauled off and is now being replaced, you likely don’t need permission unless you’re running up against the initial time limits.

What Happens if You Fail to Get the Necessary Permissions

Local authorities have the duty and authority to enforce building regulations within their jurisdiction. If someone puts up a building without permission and fails to meet the requirements, they could be prosecuted through the Magistrates’ Court and fined.

Prosecution is possible up to two years after the illegal structure was put up. More often, the planning authority orders it to be altered or taken down. If the owner doesn’t comply, the planning commission can take it down and then sue the owner to recover the costs of removal. If an illegal
temporary structure is on the property, or otherwise in violation of the rules, you may not be able to sell the property.

How to Maximize the Odds of Receiving Permission for Your Project

Planning officers look at the impact of temporary buildings on the surrounding area. You’re more likely to receive approval for a temporary building in an industrial area where it doesn’t impact the look of the area or traffic than a similar structure in a residential area. Anything that impedes a
desirable view will be difficult to get approved. A single story temporary structure will be approved before a second story one is. Temporary structures that blend in with the environment, whether a brown shed or neutral coloured portable office, will be approved before one that is neon yellow.

The hire period impacts the odds a project will be approved. For example, a temporary structure that you clearly indicate will only be there for six months is more likely to be approved than the one you’re planning to keep there for several years.

If you indicate that the temporary structures will be gone as soon as your new construction or building renovations are complete, though that time frame isn’t certain, it is more likely to be approved than if you give an indefinite and potentially permanent time frame. Planners prefer to
know that there is a finite end to the use of temporary structures. This is why a temporary building that may sit there for a year is going to be approved over a temporary building that may be there for years.

Review your project schedule. You’ll have to reapply if work doesn’t start within the period specified in your initial permission. In the case of site expansions, you may have permission from three years ago to put a temporary storage building or workshop on the property.

But, if the initial planning approval was for three years, you risk problems by putting the temporary structure up during month 35 and assuming you’re still within the rules. If your project has experienced delays, consult with a planning officer to discuss the proposal and whether you need to
re-apply. Another solution is requesting an extension of the original application, but this needs to be filed well before the initial approval period ends.

Tips for Filing Your Application for a Temporary Structure

You should try to submit the application to the planning commission as soon as you plan on buying or renting a temporary structure. Note that these applications can take two to three months to be processed. In many cases, you can also file for retrospective permission. This is especially true if you’re bringing in temporary structures to cope with a disaster like fire or flood damage and then seeking permission after the fact. Some portable building providers can take care of the paperwork for you, though you should verify this is part of the building rental.?

Determine whether or not you need an outline or full planning approval before you submit your application. You’ll typically need a full application, but this isn’t always the case. Submitting the wrong one, though, will lead to delays or outright rejection.

Be able to address concerns about noise, litter, and smells. These concerns could derail a project, even if spacing and location are not an issue. Also, know how to address concerns about traffic since this could impact local planning approvals.

If the temporary building vendor doesn’t fill out the planning permission application for you, only work with a vendor who provides you with the building plans so that you can easily submit them with your application.

Arrange and confirm all fees and the dates on which they are due. You don’t want to assemble all the paperwork and end up out of time because you didn’t pay a fee on time.

Respond to all information requests from the planning commission as quickly as possible. Don’t assume that letter is permission.

Planning Permissions versus Building Regulations

Note that planning permissions are simply permission to put in a temporary structure. Building control verifies that the structure meets all required building regulations. For example, building codes address fire safety, drainage and waste disposal, electrical connections, ventilation, resistance
to the elements, and energy efficiency. Building regulation approvals are granted in two stages: the initial approval of the building plan and then inspection.?

Working with building contractors like Smart Space will ensure that your temporary structures are installed in line with building controls and regulations. Also if you do need to apply for planning permission, Smart Space can do it on your behalf to save you time.


Temporary structures need to meet building codes, but whether or not they are granted planning council permission will depend on when and where they’re being located. Assume you need permission unless you already have it or the project is literally too small and short for anyone to

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