Most people will be familiar with pictures or footage of shipping containers sitting on large ships, or on a dockside awaiting transportation. The introduction of shipping containers in the late 1950s and '60s completely transformed the shipping industry and made the movement of goods worldwide a completely different industry to how it was before.
Whilst shipping containers are still primarily used for their intended purpose, there is a growing market of shipping containers that are used on land, both commercial and residential, as temporary or permanent storage, as well as for iconic and artistic purposes.
It is fairly inevitable that if a business wants to use a shipping container for any type of temporary or permanent storage of goods, the question of whether or not they need planning permission will apply. This can be quite a complex question depending upon the nature of the business, the nature of the goods and the siting of the container. Below are a few general guidelines which can apply to most situations if a shipping container is to be used on land.
Generally speaking, if a shipping container is being used for some type of temporary storage of goods, it is considered to still be used for its original purpose of intent and probably doesn't need any special type of approval. This changes if the container is adapted in any way so it effectively becomes a permanent on-site storage structure. If this happens, then it is likely that the business will need some type of planning approval and would need to meet specific building regulations.
A container can usually be used as some type of temporary construction shed and would not need approval whilst any work is being carried out in a particular area, using the container as a base. However, once the work has been finished, then the container would need to be removed from the building site or planning permission must be sought to keep it.
A number of businesses adapt shipping containers and use them as some type of prefabricated building for long-term and permanent storage usage. Whilst this will probably need planning permission, there are a few things to take into account. If as the container is simply being used for storage, it will be classed as low-risk work, so long as there is no element of it being used for any type of living or residential purpose.
This type of restriction means that a container cannot be used for any type of workshop, garage or shed and that any living beings such as animals or birds are not allowed to live there.
Containers that are turned into any type of domestic dwelling face real planning hurdles, as many councils and local authorities object to them on aesthetic and visual grounds and have strict policies in place on their usage.