Many people will describe garden walls and steps as garden features, but we have not included these in our garden features section as they are often more than a feature being functional. In our garden features section we cover water features, arbours pergolas and garden lighting, among others. Here we’re focused on the walls that you can make yourself in your garden.
We have a whole section on garden fences and fencing as this is a different skill to building a garden wall, even if they are often used for very similar purposes.
Gardens steps can also be a very dramatic feature and unless you garden is perfectly level you are sure to use them. Even if it is totally level you are almost certain to have steps of some kind, such as off a patio or decking surface. Find out how to build your own garden steps in our garden step section.
The Purposes of a Garden Wall
It might sound obvious but the function of the garden wall will have an effect on how it is built. There are 4 main reasons that you would build a garden wall:
- To make a barrier between your garden and outside. This might be to provide security or privacy for your garden or even to reduce traffic noise – find out more here
- To hold earth and soil back, particularly on a slope. This is generally known as a retaining wall
- To divide up your garden in to interesting areas as part of the garden design. Fences, hedging and other features can be used to achieve this also
- To provide a stable base so that other structures can be built securely. This might be to secure the legs of a pergola or arbour or even for fencing
Summary of Planning Permission Needed for Garden Walls and Garden Steps
You do not need planning permission to build a wall in your garden unless:
- You wall exceeds 1 metre high where it is next to a road or footpath. If it is anywhere else in your garden this threshold is raised to 2 metres, after which you will need to obtain planning permission
- If you live in an open plan or shared space development then there will be further restrictions on what sorts of barrier you are able to build. You local council will be able to assist you when you are planning a garden wall in these areas
There are no planning restrictions on building steps in your garden, however you will need to follow the building regulations relevant to stairs. Often garden steps will form part of a larger patio design, and under some circumstances you will need planning permission. This will mainly be about ensuring that any runoff created on a large patio or driveway will be considered.
If you have decking that is higher than 0.03 meters above the ground you will need panning permission – and steps!
For most other garden features there are no restrictions. The big exception to this is garden sheds, greenhouses and out buildings. There are relatively strict rules on the height and area of the building that you can erect. See our section on Sheds and Outbuilding for more information.
Remember that if you live in a conservation area, World Heritage site, National Park or an area of outstanding natural beauty then there might be additional restrictions, so a call to your local planning office is generally a good idea if you are not sure.