How much is too much when it comes to planning permission?
Q We want to build on an extension to our house. We are keeping to the 40 sqm we are allowed without planning permission. Our house has a utility room that is 9 sqm, which was part of the original plans, jutting off the back of the house. If we knock this, can we then build on a 49 sqm extension, ie. the 40 sqm allowed plus the 9 sqm we are rebuilding? E Keogan, Kildare
A The short answer to your question is that what you propose would unfortunately not be exempt. Once you remove the existing extension, it is gone and what is being built in its place is new and larger than 40 sqm.
The spirit of the planning exemptions is to provide a level playing field for all neighbours which allows a reasonable level of extension once certain rules are followed. However, should you decide to retain the utility and build around it this would be acceptable and you can also undertake internal renovations without planning which may still deliver the end result you are looking for.
Any form of exempted building works always needs to be undertaken carefully as it excludes neighbours from the process or from having any say in the works that may well affect them. If there is any unauthorised development elsewhere on the property already, it has the effect of automatically removing any other exemptions that you may have been entitled to. Therefore, it would be important to be certain that the utility had permission in the first instance and that there are no other conversions that would reduce the 40 sqm allowance. Should you decide to remove the utility and build a new extension no greater than 40 sqm, it is also very important to check that the utility is not on or adjacent to a shared boundary. Ironically you can build an extension along your neighbour's boundary but you need permission to remove it! The reason is that they may rely on it for support or weather proofing. If your house is a bungalow you will have to keep the eaves or parapet no higher than that of the existing house, which can sometimes be restrictive. Exempted back garden extensions can come without warning for your neighbours, so we would recommend you discuss your plans with them - particularly if you have a good relationship. It is also worth noting that you can submit a Section 5 Exemption Declaration Application to the planning authority. Basically, this would outline what you propose to do and ask them to confirm in writing that everything you are planning is fully exempt - it can help to make matters very clear for you and your neighbours. Unlike a full planning application the process only takes four weeks and does not involve any site or newspaper notices so can be quite cost effective.
I hope this helps and best of luck with your plans.
Alan Burns is a director with Bright Design Architects in Dublin, specialising in domestic building projects of all types and sizes; bda.ie
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