Beginner’s Guide to Planning Permission in Ireland
Intuitively it makes sense that societies should plan for what types of development will be permitted in a given area. In the absence of planning, one ends up with a situation such as in Houston Texas, where roller-coasters & animal feed manufacturing facilities are built beside family homes - see this interesting article for more details.
Planning laws came into existence in Ireland with the passage of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963. Any development that was in place at that point was deemed to be compliant. Any development, apart from exempted development, being conducted after the introduction of planning laws required planning permission.
The objective of planning law is to organise in a logical way what type of development should go where. Residential dwellings should not be co-located with heavy industrial operations which in turn should not be co-located with recreational space. In terms of who decides what type of development should go where, each local authority in the country produces a development plan which is almost like a business plan for the area under the authority’s control. It sets out the vision of the authority and designates certain areas for certain types of development. This gives all market participants such as homeowners and developers a high level indication as to what type of development is likely to be permissible in a given location.
What’s a Development Plan
Each local authority publishes a development plan that spans a six year period. This plan sets out, at a high level, the principles that will underpin development within the area over the next six years. Plans are drafted by local authorities with reference to the National Spatial Strategy which is, in turn, a high level plan for how development should proceed in Ireland. A familiarity with the development plan in the area in which you are seeking planning permission is important as this will guide you as to what development is likely to be permitted and what developments would contravene the development plan and as such are likely to be rejected.
The current Cork City Development Plan (2015-2021) as well as consultation documents on the future plan for 2022-2028 are available to view here: https://www.corkcity.ie/en/cork-city-development-plan/
The Dublin City Development Plan is available here.
To find the development plan for a given local authority, search on Google for the relevant local authority plus “development plan”.
As part of the development plan, the local authority will issue maps showing the various zoning designated to locations contained within the plan. For example, an area may be zoned by Dublin City Council as follows:
- Local Authority Zone: Z15 - Community & Institutional Resource Lands (Education, Recreation, Community, Green Infrastructure & Health).
- Local Authority Zone Description: To protect & provide for institutional and community uses.
- Plan Currency: From 21/10/2016 to 20/10/2022
- Local Authority: Dublin City Council
A very useful tool to check the zoning of a given location is https://myplan.ie/ Here you can check the zoning designation of any address in the Republic of Ireland. It is important to note that much of rural Ireland is unzoned meaning it carries no specific zoning designation. This land is typically used for agricultural purposes. While it varies by local authority, those looking to build one off dwellings in these locations have to show a connection to the area and a reason that the building should be permitted there as opposed to in a zone designated for residential development.
In the above screenshot, you can the see that the zoning for Áras an Uachtaráin is G5 (GZT) / Z9 (Local Authority)
Generalised Zone Types were developed for the MyPlan project. While various local authorities will have different zoning categories, each category must be mapped to a GZT; GZTs are used nationally throughout Ireland. This allows for consistent comparison of zoning types between different local authorities. So in the above screenshot, you can see that the local authority zoning is Z9; this is mapped to GZT G5.
Planning Application Search
The MyPlan website is also a fantastic resource to check the status of individual planning applications.
You can search by address and get full details of the planning permission for a given address.
A full list of documents relating to the application are available online.
Plan for the top floor of a proposed new building in Cork City
It is important when extending a property to identify if planning permission is required. Generally extensions that add less than 40 square metres do not require planning permission. For more on this, see https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/housing/planning_permission/planning_perm_altering_a_house.html If planning permission is not required, a certificate of exemption from the engineer in charge of the project should be sought; this will be required by the purchaser’s solicitor as part of the conveyancing process when the property is ultimately sold.
A porch generally will not require planning so long as it doesn’t exceed 2 metres in area and is at least 2 metres from public footpath or the road. If the porch has a slate or tiled pitched roof, it can be a maximum of 4 metres in height and 3 metres for any other type of roof.
What are Development Contributions?
Development contributions are fees charged by local authorities to the developer of a new building. These fees are levied in order to ensure the local authority is well funded for the provision of public infrastructure and facilities from which developments will benefit. For example, the provision of roads, bus corridors, surface water sewers, telecommunications infrastructure and so forth.
Below is Dublin City Council’s calculation of its per metre development contribution for residential and commercial development. Importantly, extensions of residential dwellings of less than forty square metres don’t incur development contributions. Development contributions are a significant cost and need to be taken into account when assessing the viability of any new development.
Pre Planning Consultation
A pre-planning consultation, as the name suggests, allows for an initial consultation with a planner to get their input on a proposed planning application. Getting input from a planner in advance of submitting a full application will increase the likelihood that the application will be successful, if the planner’s input is taken onboard. Pre planning can be done in advance of drawing up full plans so it allows a developer to de-risk a development somewhat by getting the planner’s input upfront before any significant costs have been incurred.
Outline Planning Permission
Outline planning permission means that the authority agrees in principle to the type and scale of development under consideration. Outline planning lacks the detail of full planning permission and is used to establish if full planning permission is likely to be granted without the need to incur the costs of having full, detailed plans drawn. If outline planning permission is granted, this is not sufficient to begin construction. Permission consequent to outline planning permission must be sought to convert the outline planning into full planning permission.
Full Planning Permission
Full planning permission is granted on the strength of detailed plans submitted to the authority. Full planning permission is sufficient to commence development. A commencement notice must be submitted to the local authority in advance of commencing construction.
Retention Planning Permission
Retention planning permission is when an application is made to retain an unauthorised development. The fee for retention planning permission is substantially in excess of the fee that would have been paid had planning permission been applied for in advance of the development being carried out. It is obviously advisable to apply for planning permission in advance of construction instead of incurring the cost and substantial risk of applying for retention planning permission after construction has been completed.
In an incredible example of the risks of proceeding to build without the necessary planning permission, a 600 square metre property in County Meath has been ordered to be demolished. The estimated cost of demolition is €326,000+VAT and will have to be paid by the owner of the property. Retention planning permission was sought but rejected. Obviously building such a large property without planning permission was massively risky and will have serious financial implications for the owners.
Photograph of the 600 sq m property in County Meath that now needs to be demolished.
Exempted development, as the name suggests, is development that can be carried out without the need for planning permission i.e it is exempt from the requirement to secure planning permission. This applies to works of a minor nature such as converting an attic for use as storage space (converting to habitable space will require planning permission), building a conservatory to the rear of the dwelling, erecting a satellite dish etc. For more on exempted development, see this useful FAQ: https://www.waterfordcouncil.ie/departments/planning/FAQs/exempt-faqs.htm