You would think that you can do what you like in your own garden - plant trees, build sheds, add a trampoline, but no, nothing is simple in Portugal.
There are many legal considerations you must watch for before you break out the beers and the garden chairs.
clearing – Fire Risk Law - rural areas have a deadline of March 15 to clear land outside to 50
metres of the house, otherwise owners can be fined. Fire risks are very high in
Portugal, and the law states that all the owners, tenants, and users located in
rural areas, even if they are not the owners of the buildings, are obliged to
undertake this land clearance. Bonfires, for burning garden debris are
subject to specific rules too, to avoid fire-related risks.
Spacing - The space between treetops (crowns) of trees, not the trunks, should be at least 4m apart. Maritime pine and eucalyptus should be 10m. However, ICNF (the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests) have explained this is intended to thin out large areas, and if you have a small group of trees that are closer than these ranges, this should not pose a problem provided the lower half is properly pruned. Always best to check first.
You should prune trees 4m above the ground. For trees with a height of under 8m, prune the lower half of the tree. Trees and bushes must be 5m away from buildings, and treetops must not extend over the roof. However, under new decree law 10/2018, there is some flexibility given to trees with a ‘special heritage or landscape value’, providing the area around them is clear of vegetation.
Shrubs should not be higher than 50cm - this is aimed at avoiding an overgrowth over larger areas. ICNF advise: if in your garden you have individual or small groups of shrubs that exceed this height but are properly managed, this should not pose problems.
Building stuff in your garden - Whether you use straw bales, timber, or stone, there seem to be very few limitations, but (there’s always a ‘but‘) for all habitations without foundations such as containers, teepees, yurts, caravans, mobile homes, etc, no permission is needed, as long as they can be seen to be moveable and are not in permanent occupation. The definition of a ‘temporary home’ varies from council to council but usually, it's anything you can move 20m within 24 hours, and always includes anything with wheels.
So, you want a building to protect your hot tub from the elements? You spent a lot of money on it, you want it protected. In general, you don’t need planning permission for a garden building, depending on certain factors. Generally, something to house a hot tub will be a small, single-story structure but not fully enclosed. Depending on its size and location this can be added to your property without permission, but can’t be more than a single story high, will not be over 3m tall (or 4m including a pitched roof), not be within 2 meters of your boundary, and the structure is not nearer to the road or public highway than it is to your house. Also, it shouldn’t, along with any other garden buildings, take up more than 50% of the space around the house as it was originally built.
It isn’t as easy as you think, is it?
Security Cameras - Every garden owner has a right to privacy especially from nearby neighbours, so security cameras placed outdoors should not point down your road, only to the confines of your own garden or public space so as not to infringe on your neighbours’ privacy. Smoky barbecues, bubbling hot tubs, and noisy parties could all be deemed as nuisance behaviour- so be considerate of your neighbours when it comes to enjoying time out in your garden. Adding a trampoline? - It should not be placed anywhere that people using it can see into neighbours’ gardens or homes when they are bouncing - again, an invasion of privacy.
And finally, between 23:00 and 7:00 loud noise at home is prohibited (Regulamento Geral do Ruído).
Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man.
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