Small Woodland Owners' Group

Underground Shelters

Paperwork, grants, legal issues

Postby jennysmate » Wed Dec 02, 2009 9:30 am

I walked in a woodland trust wood yesterday and came across a WW2 bomb shelter, it was still dry and, apart from graffitti and a liitle fire damage, in good order. It got me thinking whether I could build an underground, or semi-underground, shelter/store in my wood. I also went to Kew gardens and went in their man-made, human sized badger set, which would made a lovely shelter.

My neighbors have had various shelters, caravans, etc. over the years, all of them vandalised. So something underground could be hidden, and a solid trap door could be made secure.

Has anyone gone down this root? (pun intended) I'd be interested to hear your experiences. Presumably planning approval would be easier as theres no visual impact.

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Postby jillybean » Wed Dec 02, 2009 11:59 am

Hi Jennysmate, I believe there is some fantastic loophole in the law about underground structures, like they are exempt from permission because they cannot be seen. This could of course be urban myth but Im sure someone will be only too happy to correct me. I have a wooden bunker type thing. its so well hidden I often cannot find it myself. Its a little like being in the trenches. the downside is they can flood and it can be a little dark, but this could be solved by better engineering.

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Postby RichardKing » Wed Dec 02, 2009 6:03 pm

Remember that any excavation exceeding a metre deep requires planning permission.

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Postby James M » Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:09 pm

It's all about use.

You do need to submit notice so they can check its intended use. If they agree it's for storage of kit then you'd probably get it under permitted development and there would not be much the planners could do, nor would you need building regs.

The big issue would be the 'shelter' - if you hinted you would use it as any sort of abode at all then they'd demand planning permission so they could knock you back.

Try it under PD first - then ask for change of use a few years down the line?

Building it would be the issue! I have a book which shows how to build one and it need major structural input - more than just a free standing shed.


James M
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Postby Catweazle » Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:40 pm

Jennysmate, was that Ashenbank Wood in Kent ? They are well preserved there, I keep hoping to find one in my bit which adjoins the Woodland Trust.

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Postby jennysmate » Thu Dec 03, 2009 5:12 pm

Catweazle, it was indeed Ashenbank wood, a lovely wood.

James M , could you tell me the name and author of the book? I was thinking of a small construction, say 8-10ft square, so cant imagine too much structural work, keeping it dry would be the biggest problem.

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Postby wood troll » Thu Dec 03, 2009 8:31 pm

Hi jennysmate,

Was too tired to answer last night but I think you might be interested in...."The 50$ & up underground house" by Mike Oehler. ISBN 978-0-442-27311-8.

It is very interesting reading and it certainly is worth buying if you are considering building underground. The book goes into great detail (even allowing for idiots) on how to build underground and how also how not to do it. I would be wary though of flouting planning law as they have a habit of filling holes in very easily!

wood troll

wood troll
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Postby James M » Fri Dec 04, 2009 9:40 am

Jennysmate - It's 'Rustic Retreats', David and jeanie Stiles, Storey Publishing - 1-58017-035-8. Shows you how to build a 10x10 hut dug into a hillside. If we had PM! I could send you some stuff.


James M
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Postby jennysmate » Fri Dec 04, 2009 9:52 am

Thanks Wood Troll and James M, both books are now on my christmas list.

Did some googling last night, but mostly came across American sites, for hurrican and nuclear shelters, nothing simple.

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