What is curtilage?

What is curtilage?

In this blog, we’ll explain what is curtilage. It is useful to understand the definition of this term when planning an annexe or mobile home in your garden.  This knowledge will help you to understand which part of your garden, or land you can use to build an annexe, and which you cannot.  The term residential curtilage is used to describe land immediately surrounding a dwelling.  It can include any other closely associated buildings or structures to form one enclosure.  Within which a homeowner can have a reasonable expectation of privacy. For instance, a garden, a yard or an outbuilding.

The reality is, that its definition, in planning terms is far from straightforward and can cause a great deal of confusion. This is where we come in.

How does the law define curtilage?

The definition of curtilage has been considered frequently through various planning appeals and High Court cases.  We refer to one of the most landmark cases (Burford v SSCLG). Which involved a landowner who had been served an enforcement notice for erecting a building on land that they claimed to be a residential curtilage. The landowner intended to rely on permitted development rights (Class E of Schedule 2 of the General Permitted Development Order 2015) for the building. They put forward the argument that the land was within the curtilage of the main house.  The Local Planning Authority acknowledged this and had previously granted a Certificate of Lawfulness for the use of the land as a garden, incidental to the enjoyment of the main dwelling house.

In this case, the Planning Inspector upheld the enforcement notice and the landowner appealed.  However, the High Court dismissed the appeal, agreeing with the Inspector’s decision that the land was not curtilage.

The case of Burford v SSCLG, highlighted it’s a matter for the court (Local Planning Authority or Planning Inspector) to decide what falls within the curtilage of a specific building. The case of Burford v SSCLG, further highlighted there are three important factors for determining whether the land is within the curtilage. Namely, the physical layout, past and present ownership and the historical and existing use of the land. The High Court case can be accessed in detail here.


The definition of curtilage is a significant factor when it comes to mobile home planning permission and permitted development rights. For example, the stationing of a caravan within this area of a dwellinghouse does not require planning permission.  Provided it complies with Section 55(1) of the Planning Act. Furthermore, a new outbuilding erected within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse that is used for incidental purposes can benefit from Permitted Development. This may not need a formal planning application. The definition of development in planning terms can be viewed here.

Further support

Legal complexities surrounding what constitutes curtilage are complex. NAPC can advise and provide a professional opinion as to what constitutes the curtilage of your property.  Call us on 01285 283200.

Continue reading

The following blogs on our website will help you to understand more about Annexe planning and the permissions required.

The Granny Annexe: Householder or Mobile Home Application?

The Caravan Act – what do you need to know?

When will my Garden Room need planning permission?



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