Closed pubs may be developed for housing without planning permission

Planning exemptions for above-shop spaces to also include pubs closed for at least two years

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien says it makes eminent sense that public houses fall in under these exemptions. Photograph: Tom Honan

Pubs that have been closed for at least two years will be eligible for redevelopment into housing units without planning permission once new regulations come into force next week.

The move will add public houses to above-shop spaces in Irish towns and villages, and planning exemptions for both will be extended to 2025.

Detailing the additional steps to further increase accommodation among vacant buildings, Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien said pub renovations would be limited to nine units each. Regulations safeguarding external building fabric and protected structures also remain in place. *

The proposal is an amendment to principal Planning and Development Regulations 2001-2021 and is expected to pass through the Oireachtas, as required under law, by the end of next week.

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Previous regulations making change-of-use of certain vacant commercial premises, including areas above ground floor, exempt from planning were introduced in 2018 and have so far yielded 1,400 residential units.

"That's not something to be sniffed at in my view," Mr O'Brien told the Oireachtas Housing Committee on Thursday, outlining the proposed changes. "That's a really good use of empty space and vacant properties… I think we can do a lot better."

In looking for further similar opportunities to produce housing in this way, pubs had sprung to mind.

“A lot of our public houses are very prominent buildings in our towns and villages across this country and indeed in our cities. So, to me, it makes eminent sense that those public houses will fall in under these exemptions.”

Unlike in the previous regulation, the 250sq m restriction will not apply given the potential complexities of differentiating between the licensed and unlicensed parts of a building.

However, other rules will apply, including that a limit of nine residential units continue, and a premises will have to have been idle for at least two years to qualify.

“We don’t want people just closing a premises and saying, right I’m going to now convert this,” Mr O’Brien said.

Protected structures

In response to some concerns raised by members of the committee, the Minister said other limitations included minimum storage space, floor area, natural light and habitable rooms in order to ensure good quality. Rules around protected structures and the external built fabric also remain relevant.

The altering of façades or adding on additional buildings would not be permitted, he said, and the local planning authority would have to be notified two weeks prior to the beginning of works.

“There is no fear that residents might have about there being major changes to the footprint of these areas. I think what is really positive about it is we’re going to be able to try to get people and families back living in” towns and villages.

In a separate discussion on spending estimates for the year ahead, the Housing Committee heard the department expected to have non-exchequer funding of about €91.5 million from the proceeds of Local Property Tax (LPT).

The overall budget for 2022 will exceed €5.9 billion, comprising €2.5 billion in current funding and €3.4 billion in capital funding, while there is also €276 million capital carryover from 2021.

This year will see more than €3.6 billion allocated to housing programmes, an increase of €527 million (17 per cent).

*This article was amended on February 11th 2022

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times