Life Interiors

Saturday 25 November 2017

Architect's clinic: We've got our site, now what about planning?

An architect can save you heartbreak later
An architect can save you heartbreak later

David Moran

Q With house prices rising in Dublin, we have decided to move nearer my family in Co Sligo and have found a site to build a new house. We need advice on how best to proceed with planning.

A When you have identified a site, firstly consider the site's suitability for its intended use. Is access to the site safe or is it close to a bend in a road? Is the site suitable for possible future alterations that may be required?

While this is a personal choice, it is also a local authority concern. For example, some local authorities only permit development for 'local need'. Local authorities establish such restrictions by means of a planning zone (i.e. residential or commercial). A house on a family farm for a member of the family who works on the farm may be permitted.

More specific design considerations can be established by the council's development standards. In areas zoned for housing, houses that comply with development standards are often permitted. However, councils impose specific guidelines for rural areas.

The technical suitability of the site must also be examined. For example, is the ground suitable for a domestic waste-water treatment unit? All development standards must be established prior to the authority considering an application, as must zoning objectives.

Protected structures and conservation areas add complexity. As finding the 'right' site is a complex area, it is advised that a registered architect be appointed.

Early identification of unsuitable sites may prevent futile costs. Sites on flood plains or sites where there is no permeable ground conditions needed for waste-water treatment are both unsuitable. If you know from the start what is an unsuitable site, you will save yourself cost and you and your architect can identify alternative and more suitable sites.

The cost of an urban site may be higher than a rural one, while the costs of seeking permission for rural sites are higher than urban applications as evaluating waste-water control in rural areas can be costly.

Following planning success, it is advised that you consult your architect. You also need to be aware of the new Building Control Amendment Regulations (S.I. 9 of 2014), which require that developments requiring planning permission must notify in detail the Building Control Authority of the commencement of works.

A subsequent piece of legislation (S.I. 365 of 2015) established an opt-out clause for domestic projects. This removes a valuable control - such as Certification and an Inspection Plan (S.I. 9) - where compliance with the Building Regulations can be assured.

David Moran is a registered architect and covers a wide range of domestic and commercial architectural services; for more, check You can find a registered architect on

Do you have an architectural dilemma we can help you with? Email your problem to Advice provided is for guidance only and readers are advised to seek professional assistance for any proposed project.

Sunday Independent

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