Wicklow saw the largest increase in lodged planning applications in the country in 2014, according to The National Housing Construction Index, released by Link2Plans. The national average was up 12 per cent, whereas Wicklow witnessed a 31 per cent increase.
While this is good news for builders and tradesmen, seeking planning permission in the Garden of Ireland is for some like stepping into a quagmire. With strict policies to ensure sustainable rural communities, there has been much national debate on the regulations enforced on erecting individual homes within rural areas.
The county has a tiered system of planning legislation divided into 10 zones and within same are different criteria – the most stringent of which, are that you must be a ‘native’ born and bred in the area, or have lived there for a period of 10 years and demonstrate you have local housing needs.
There has been controversy over this issue, as it has been said to discriminate against potential buyers on where they are born. So much so, in 2007, a report by the Law Society's Reform Committee, recommended that An Bord Pleanála, should, among other conditions, never discriminate on a local residency condition or impose bloodline conditions – where one is basically related to the land, as is the case in parts of Wicklow.
Arguably, there are justified reasons behind the strict policies, including cheaper sites, control over an influx from neighbouring Dublin leading to possible one-off housing bungalow blitz, and preservation of the natural landscape.
For those looking to build in Wicklow, if the site has a Section 47 condition attached, Wicklow County Council must approve new owners if you decide to sell your home.
If building outside the main towns in Wicklow, it is probably advisable to engage a planning consultant, who can wade through the myriad regulations and assess your chances from the outset.