What is the best way to secure planning permission?

Property Clinic: Two early hurdles you must cross are showing a ‘local’ and a ‘housing’ need

I am in rented accommodation and now contemplating progressing to owner occupation. We would be interested in building our home rather than buying a property for various reasons but mainly to have more space and bigger garden. Planning laws appear to be very restrictive in relation to permissions for new housing. What advice would you have for someone considering embarking on this route as we do not want to find ourselves in a position of spending too much of our savings on professional fees with the risk of not getting planning permission.

Planning authorities generally favour urban development, rather than rural. There is logic to this as the proliferation of housing in rural areas leads to subsequent demand for better infrastructure and this is costly. The recent debate about the excessive cost of providing broadband to remote areas is a good example of the effect of allowing development in remote country areas. The increase in the number of septic tanks and their effect on groundwater, inadequate roads, poor access for bin lorries and the like, all contribute to the negative side of the equation. However, the joy of owning your own plot and designing your own home remains an aspiration for many.

In some cases, rural housing is demanded by family members where they are involved in a family farm or other agri-business. Planning authorities will generally restrict development in rural areas to applicants who can demonstrate a “local need” and a “housing need”. Once these two hurdles have been crossed, the planner will then concern themselves with house type/design, site suitability for the provision of a wastewater treatment system or septic tank and sightlines so that a traffic hazard will not result with the placement of a new entry point to the site. Development plans, written by the planning authority, will generally clearly set out guidelines to be followed in this regard.

In your case, you are at an early stage and do not appear to have identified a site. Also, you do not mention the area of the country in which you wish to reside. My advice is that once you have identified a potential site, you engage directly with the local authority and arrange a preplanning meeting. This will help you to understand the requirements and any restrictions that the local authority might have. If you have a local need and housing need, you will be ready to move to the next stage. I would recommend that you then have the site tested at this early stage to ensure that it passes the suitability test mentioned above. Your designer should also look at sightlines and be satisfied that the required distances can be achieved before moving to the next phase of design.


At this stage, you would not have spent a significant amount of money but will have a clearer indication with regard to the potential outcome of the application. You should be aware however that third-party appeals can slow you down and most applications hit the odd bump in the road. So allow for unforeseen delays.

If you have an option to buy a site, make sure that it is subject to planning permission being granted. In that situation you know that even if the deal falls through, you will be entitled to get your money back.

Money spent at the early stages in achieving a good and sustainable design will be money well spent. If you follow the above process, you can be confident that the risk of outright refusal is mitigated.

Noel Larkin is a chartered building surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie