Can I use my vacant holiday homes for housing without planning?

Property Clinic: Strict regulations govern the change of use of a development

I have a holiday cottage scheme of unused houses in a rural area in the west of Ireland with planning permission for short-term holiday letting only. Can they now be used for full-time residential use without a change of planning permission?

Noel Larkin writes: Many families escape to the sanctuary of their holiday home on a Friday evening. In these straitened times and with an eye on the rising cost of just getting there, not to mention the expense of running that second home, the luxury of a holiday home is now under scrutiny. Can the limitations of usage on holiday homes, usually applied through planning condition, be relaxed in order to help with housing supply? This would allow people to reside in these properties and in turn go some way to help alleviate the ongoing real housing crisis.

You explain that your housing scheme has yet to be occupied but it has planning permission for short-term holiday letting only. You now want to use the homes for full-time residential use.

Under the Planning and Development Act, 2000, all development, unless specifically exempted under the Act or associated regulations, requires planning permission.


Where planning is granted for a holiday home, as is the case here, such holiday homes cannot be used for permanent residential purposes. In such cases a change of use of a holiday home to a place of permanent residence would be a material change of use thus requiring planning permission. The carrying out of a material change of use from holiday home to a place of permanent residence without obtaining planning permission would be considered unauthorised development and could be subject to enforcement proceedings by the relevant planning authority under planning legislation.

Every case is different. When considering an application for planning permission for residential development or change of use, the planning authority is required to consider the local housing needs requirements policy as set out in the local authority’s development plan. Therefore, occupation may be restricted to those who can satisfy local need only.

Although such a change of use makes perfect sense when considering the current housing crisis, it is not a foregone conclusion that permission would be granted. Holiday homes are usually located in more remote areas and on land specially zoned for such development in the development plan and/or local area plan, such as “resort” zoning. Such locations therefore may not be suitable for permanent residential development.

Different density, design layouts and standards may also be applied to holiday homes than to permanent residential development. Wastewater treatment systems, for example, may need to be upgraded. The planning authority’s policies on rural housing may also apply differently to holiday homes than to permanent residential development, all of which the authority would have to consider when deciding on a change-of-use application.

Bearing these considerations in mind, a proposal to change a holiday home to permanent residential housing might well be found to be contrary to the principles of proper planning and sustainable development of the area in question.

As a first step, I would recommend that your professional adviser set up a pre-planning meeting with the planning department of the relevant local authority. From that you should be able to establish if such an application would be welcomed.