I want to build a log house. Do I need to change planning permission?
Any new planning application, simply needs to show that the changed design still fits with the local authority’s planning strategy
The problem with log cabin designs is that these are typically Alpine in style. Aspects of the house may not fit in with our vernacular style. Photograph: iStock
Q: If I buy a site with full planning permission for a bungalow, can I scrap the plans and build a permanent residence in the form of a log house? What can you tell me about planning laws around log homes for permanent living?
A: Changing the house type on a previously successful planning permission is usually a relatively straightforward process. Your designer, in a new planning application, simply needs to show that the changed design still fits with the local authority’s planning development strategy for the area. The number of bedrooms should not increase, as this will have an impact on the proposed waste-water treatment system. Siting, overshadowing, impact on adjacent properties and so on will be assessed as part of the new “change of house type” application. If your local and housing need haven’t changed, these will not need to be reassessed in any great detail.
Most local authorities now produce planning guidelines. These set out the house style and siting that the planners want implemented. In general terms these usually point the designer in the direction of vernacular architecture. This means that windows should have a vertical emphasis – that is, they should be higher than they are long – roof angles should be greater and overhangs should be minimal and less boxy. Building heights should not be excessive, and finishes should mirror traditional materials used. Excessive excavation of sites should be avoided, with the house footprint following the natural ground levels.
The problem with log cabin designs is that these are typically Alpine in style. Aspects of the house may not fit in with our vernacular style. Finishes of all timber will not match in terms of materials preferred by local authorities.
Log cabin-style houses are becoming popular, as in many cases there is an element of prefabrication that brings with it reduced cost and faster construction, both of which are major selling points. However, there can be resistance from local authorities where it is felt that such properties do not meet their design guidelines.
Local authorities do not set out to be prescriptive and would not welcome a universal design approach where all houses would look the same. Each application is assessed on its merits and if a log cabin will fit with its receiving environment there is no reason why it would not be permitted.
I would suggest a pre-planning meeting with your local planner and designer to iron out any obvious issues ahead of your application. If your application is successful, be sure to have the proposed house assessed to ensure that, when constructed, it will conform with all relevant building regulations. In my experience, this is an aspect that can be overlooked.
Noel Larkin is a Chartered Building Surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie