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Can I put a bike or bin storage unit at the front of my house?

Property Clinic: Does the apparent planning prohibition on storage units only apply to protected structures?

Finding a secure outside space to store a bicycle or bin can prove problematic. Photograph: Paulo Amorim

I read with interest a recent news report in The Irish Times in which An Bord Pleanála refused permission for a Clontarf couple to retain a bike storage unit in the front garden of their Victorian period home, saying it would be “detrimental to the setting of the protected structure”. Is this a new departure by the board, or is there a precedent for its decision? I’m curious as to the potential implications of this ruling for other owners of protected structures and even non-protected structures looking to store their bicycles or even bins in units at the front of their properties.

For those readers that are not as obsessed with the ins and outs of planning permission like yours truly, it might be helpful to know that, regardless of a building being protected or not, Class 3 of Part 1 Exempt Development (General) of Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 (as amended), states that a store or shed (among other structures) may not be placed “forward of the front wall” of a dwelling.

So, if you wish to place a shed/store in your front garden, you require planning permission. Where you do not have permission, the structure is classed as “unauthorised development” and you are left with either removing the structure or seeking retention permission for it.

However, if the structure is there for more than seven years and no action was taken by the authority, and you have not applied for retention, then the seven-year rule kicks in. That is, under Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) Part VIII, Section 157(4), it says that local authorities may not serve enforcement notices for an unauthorised development after seven years since the commencement of the development. Note, however, that while this means the development cannot be enforced upon, it does not mean that the status of the unauthorised development has changed. Therefore, if you were to put the property on the market, the unauthorised development may block the sale.

Brigid Browne, chartered building surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland. Photograph: Andres Poveda

Regarding this retention application, An Bord Pleanála would have looked at many aspects and in this case, there was a further consideration. That is, the protected status of the dwelling. This protection status extends to the dwelling’s attendant grounds and therefore the front garden must be looked at through a similar criterion to the main building. The board considered that the development was in contravention with Dublin City Development Plan 2022-2028′s zoning for the area, that is to protect and/or improve the amenities of residential conservation areas and also Policy BHA2. Specifically, BHA2 paragraph (d): “Ensure that any development, modification, alteration, or extension affecting a protected structure and/or its setting is sensitively sited and designed, and is appropriate in terms of the proposed scale, mass, height, density, layout and materials.”

A green plastic shed/store was not considered appropriate. Materials were not deemed compatible/sympathetic with the original structure. The view was taken that granting this application would set a precedent opening the door to similar developments and this could negatively impact on protected structures within the curtilage/area.

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This result, however, does not mean that sheds/stores in the front lawn are ultimately prohibited whether your dwelling is protected or not. It is simply that early engagement with the planning authority, use of appropriate construction materials and good design are key. The planning authority will listen to the applicant’s requirements, be sympathetic to the confines of the site and even to personal accounts and difficulties of living in such a site, but it will be up to you to prove that your development is appropriate enough to allay the authority’s fears, and help it to make an appropriate decision. Most of all, you must be prepared to hear “no”. But remember, you can go back to the drawing board and try again.

Brigid Browne is a chartered building surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland

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