Miles Sampson Ecological & Sustainable Architecture Ireland

Advice on Planning Permission

In Ireland the process of getting planning permission to build a house or anything may seem mysterious and complex and you will find a lot of conflicting advice on the matter.

I am not going to reproduce here information about time scales, procedures or rights, as this is covered quite well in the advice sheets offered by the Department of the Environment. Click here for their guides on Planning Permission, Building a house, works to existing house or planning permission for businesses.

There are a few myths about the planning process that you hear which it is difficult to find definitive answers for, so hopefully you will find the following tips and advice useful.

  1. Each planning authority is responsible for their own procedures, but has to work within the Department of Environment rules and national guidelines (it is important for your designer to be aware of these guidelines).
  2. The so called "local expert" on planning (architect, engineer or technician) may received a much prejudice against him as for him from the planning authority, because there may be a history of difficult projects or styles between them and the planning authority (we have in many cases been grant planning permission where a "local expert" was previously refused).
  3. Planners are not trained building designers; they are trained to look at matters of city and county importance. Unfortunately they are often forced to review design matters because the submissions that are received are from untrained designers. In our experience planners are happy to listen to the advice of an experienced / skilled designer.
  4. Each planning authority has a development plan, which is essentially the "bible" to building within that area. It is important that your architect / designer is knowledgeable about the local development plan. Development plans get reviewed every 4 years, so this is the opportunity to have your opinions included in the development plan (and get zoning changed if necessary).
  5. It is perceived that the only style of building that will be accepted are traditional designs. While the default style that planners revert to is traditional we have always found them supportive of well designed contemporary buildings (as can be seen from the list of buildings we have secured planning for).
  6. Generally you have much more design freedom if you choose to design a contemporary* building instead of a traditional building. A traditional* building has a series of constraints that it has to conform to so that it is traditional (this often causes problems with large areas of south glazing or orientation to the south). On the other hand, contemporary* design has no constraints what so ever, so it is up to your skilled architect / designer to establish a criteria for the design which can include large glazed areas, correct orientation and a large open plan layout.
  7. A concept for a building is only as good as its presentation and this cannot be overstated in terms of getting planning permission. At the end of the day the planner making a decision on your project can only review drawings/images/photomontages in front of them to make a decision. You can have the best designed building, but if it is poorly presented then it will not get anywhere. In this regard it is important to employ a skilled architect / designer.
  8. Councillors and local political representatives will not be able to "get you" planning permission! It is true that they can assist in liaising with the local authority, but the planners are still bound to deal with the application that is presented to them, so it is imperative that a skilled architect / designer is employed. A councillor can ensure that local concerns taken account of and keep a close eye on the planning progress, so their assistance can be beneficial in securing planning permission. In rare cases if the majority of councillors agree on something then the decision of the planner can be overturned, but this happens rarely and only on the largest strategic projects.

We have a fantastic track record in securing planning permission, especially in difficult contexts. Listed below are some planning permissions that we have secured.

* "contemporary design" should not be confused with the "modern style". Modernism came about is the 60´s as a reaction against the constraints of traditional building and to take advantage of new construction techniques. It has often lead to designs of boring white boxes. "Contemporary design" only means what is being designed now and it can include many different aspects, from traditional references to the landscape to personal preferences.

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