Do I need permission for my renovation plans?
Q: My husband and I would like to convert an existing garage attached to the side of our house while also building an extension behind the garage in our back garden. We are unsure whether we will require planning permission for all of this work. Can you advise?
A: As the building works you have in mind are for two separate parts of your home - a garage conversion and an extension - it would be best to consider the planning status of each separately.
The planning regulations allow the conversion of a garage attached to the rear or side of a house, for use as part of the house, as exempted development. However, to be exempted the conversion must be within limits set in planning regulations, perhaps the most important of which is that the cumulative total of the internal floor area of the conversion and any other extension(s) does not exceed 40sq.m.
If the cumulative total of these floor areas exceeds this limit, then not only will planning permission be required, but, depending on the design, you may not be exempted from the requirements of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations introduced in 2014. Thus, while it may be possible to convert your garage without the need to obtain planning permission, it would be prudent to seek the advice of a registered architect for any but the simplest of conversions.
The extension behind the garage
The planning status of the proposed extension behind your garage is more difficult to determine, so it would be best to assume this is not exempted development and that planning permission is going to be required. The reason for this is that, while the extension would be located behind your garage - which itself could potentially be converted as exempted development - your planning authority might well consider the new extension to be to the side of your house and therefore not exempted development.
If exemption is important to you, then you ought to consider locating any new extension to the rear of your house itself instead of the rear of the garage; various limits, already mentioned, will nevertheless still apply.
Where there is significant doubt about the planning status of a particular development - such as the extension behind your garage - it would be wise to apply to your planning authority for a 'Declaration on Development and Exempted Development'.
Your planning authority should provide information about declarations on its website, along with the relatively simple and inexpensive process you will need to follow to obtain one; in 2016 the application fee for a declaration is €80. You will need design drawings for the declaration request, so, again, it would be best to employ a registered architect to prepare drawings and submit the application for you.
Once your declaration request has been submitted to the planning authority, then the location of your proposed extension will be just one of a number of factors considered before a decision is made concerning exemption. The planning authority should issue a declaration within four weeks of your request and should give reasons for its decision with the declaration.
If your proposed extension is not exempted development, then you will need to obtain planning permission before undertaking relevant building work and any design drawings already completed by your architect could, possibly, be used to this end.
If, on the other hand, you are unhappy with the reasons given by the planning authority in relation to the declaration, then you may refer it to An Bord Pleanala.
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Advice provided is for guidance only and readers are advised to seek professional assistance for any proposed project.
Architect Mark Costello, MRIAI, Strand Architects; Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Consult a registered architect when considering any changes to your home. The RIAI is the registration body for architects in Ireland and you can find a registered architect on riai.ie