Converted Shipping Containers: Do I Need Planning Permission?

With thousands turning to converted shipping containers as a cost effective and secure solution for creative builds and on-site storage, the most popular question we are asked is if planning permission is required for the placement of their shipping container. 

When is planning permission required? 

Planning permission is typically required for new builds, extensions, work to listed buildings or work undertaken within a conservation area or AONB (area of outstanding natural beauty). These types of works are generally considered to be “permanent”.

In contrast, it is highly unusual to require planning permission for “temporary buildings” such as caravans or mobile homes which are regarded as temporary because they can be moved. Container structures will often fall into this category as they are not fixed into the ground and can be “moved” relatively easily. The exception to this is if a temporary building is being erected in AONB – this will still require planning permission.

When is a shipping container not considered a temporary building?

This all depends on the use of the container. For example, if the container is being converted into a garden bar for occasional use, this is temporary. If it is being used to create a permanent habitable building or container home in a single location, this is considered permanent and may require planning permission. 

The scale of your project is a big factor

The scale of what you intend to use the container(s) for also needs to be factored in. A storage container on an industrial yard or farm should cause no problems whereas a yard full of containers with the intent to start a self-storage business is a different story. Equally, a converted container for serving food would require similar local council authorisation as would a roadside café. This is no exception to that rule.

The environment is also a key factor

As mentioned above, planning permission will be required for any portable buildings being put into an Area of Natural Beauty. Green belt land doesn’t usually cause an issue for temporary structures, but will certainly require planning permission for permanent buildings. 

Other points to consider

Where planning permission is unlikely to be needed, we would still advise on exercising appropriate consideration. If you’re planning on putting a 20’ container on your driveway in a built up area, or near a road, be prepared for complaints. If it is tucked away in your garden, hidden away from sight, it shouldn’t be a problem.

How to help with planning permission

When applying for planning permission, be clear on your conscious effort to not cause visual disturbance. Here are some popular choices to help reduce the impact of a container on an environment:

  • Paint your container:
      • In dark green or camouflage to help it blend into the countryside
      • In your brand colours to help complement your business and premises
      • To match the cladding of a building it is to sit against, to help it look more of an extension to the building 
  • Clad the container with wood to create a log-cabin style effect 
  • Plan to hide the container to take your eye off it:
      • Erect fencing around the container
      • Grow shrubbery / bushes around it (thorny / prickly bushes are particularly effective as an additional level of security too)

Money Saving Top Tip: If you do require planning permission, apply for PRE-PLANNING ADVICE first before submitting a planning application. This is much cheaper and if it is a clear-cut no, they will tell you at this stage and save you the money of a full application. 

Extreme measures

If planning permission is particularly difficult, consider burying the container underground. It sounds like an extreme measure, but it is an incredibly effective technique when done correctly. Turf can be laid back over the top and you’d never know it existed; just plan for your access point. Some simply use a shed to hide the access point.

Colinfurze has a youtube video on his spectacular underground creation for some inspiration.

Are there any other regulations I need to be aware of?

If you plan to make any building or structure habitable, you will require building control to sign off your creation before living in it as they need to confirm that the building complies with building and fire regulations. Key areas of examination include adequate insulation, ventilation, heating, drainage, sanitation, accessibility, fire protection and emergency escape routes.

Why are we, a steel door company, advising on converted shipping containers?

As one of the UK’s largest suppliers of shipping container doors, window shutters and glazing, we are increasingly being asked about the use of converted containers. We have a container conversion specialist in-house who can help with any queries you have, along with chosen partners who can convert shipping containers. We also specialise in stock steel doors that are used for more domestic style container conversions; see our full range of steel doors and feel free to get in touch to see how we can advise any further.


Please always check with your local planning authority before moving forwards with any container purchase. Although we can advise using our past experience, we cannot guarantee that the same rules apply in your circumstances.

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