Irish Planning Myth #2 – you can demolish a house as long as you build the new the same

Irish Planning Myth #2 – you can demolish a house as long as you build the new the same

Again a myth.

Irish builders love knocking old cottages down:

“Ah she’ll fall down when we start building”

“It’s a lot easier to build it new than doing anything with that old wreck”

“If we get it up fast enough, no one will notice”

“You’ll get a lovely new house”

Remember the post on “Why builders have more influence than architects but why you shouldn’t listen to them”

The above sentences do make a bit of sense (unfortunately not to those wanting to protect Ireland’s architectural heritage) but what happens when you go ahead and demolish:

1. You do not have planning permission as the demolition of a habitable house constitutes development under the Planning and Development Acts.

2. Your property does not now have the correct title compliance in order for your solicitor to sell your property. Unless that is:

  • You obtain a retention planning permission – not a given; the rules for planning on new houses are completely different to extending an existing property – you could have made your property effectively worthless
  • You obtain a dodgy certificate of compliance from an architect or engineer
  • Your solicitor ignores the lack of planning compliance – unlikely in todays economic climate

    For more reading, here’s the original blog post on this subject together with the ADVICE NOTE

    More Irish planning myths debunked tomorrow. There I told you there’d be no leprechauns.


  • 9 thoughts on “Irish Planning Myth #2 – you can demolish a house as long as you build the new the same

    1. Mark I was emailing a friend on your last blog as below so thought I would share. One thing on your advice note re habitable houses. I do not believe a derilect house is necessarily a habitable house or still has planning as a dwelling. Planning for an abandoned use only continues provided that there is an intention to keep/resume the use. If you allow a house to become derilect to the point of the roof falling in surely you have abandoned any intention of resuming occupation. There is I think a case in one of David Keanes books (which I don’t have to check) where a building was sold and the new owners errecetd a billboard/sign in the place of one the old owner had removed before leaving. It was rulled that as the previous owner had removed the buillboard/sign the use had been abandoned. Keep up the posts – Lester Naughton RIAI

      I had a client who almost lost 150K due to a helpful builder and possibly her “engineer/architect” She had brought an old cottage and wanted to extend. A design for an extension that left only the front wall and demolished the rest was made. They suggested this was exempt development but it failed on several points. Then during construction the builder decided that it would be handy to demolish the only wall left and build everything new. The neighbours complained, she got a warning letter and then applied for retention. REFUSED! The council started looking for local housing need etc. Her house site was almost only a field! She got me involved and I established precedent for replacement dwellings at appeals stage and also pointed out that if she had demolished a dwelling without planning permission then the councils only recourse was to enforce and require rebuilding. The planners would not even engage with the argument and a junior planner was sent out to stonewall me at a preplanning meeting. Eventually with political pressure and 3.5K spent on planning consultants they gave permission.

      1. You’re right but I’d still not demolish it no matter how derelict it was; the problem will be the definition of habitable, info below from Donegal:

        “A derelict or run down building previously used as a habitable house, is still a habitable house.”

        All too familiar story on ‘helpful’ builders.

        Between me & you I prefer enforcement officers to Planners shhh

    2. An English cousin of mine moved to Ireland a few years ago and made a fabulous job of renovating a traditional old cottage. He had major issues with local builders who were resistant to any form of retention.

      It’s depressing the Irish attitude to our vernacular cottages. If they’re not knocked down, they’re filled with PVC windows, fascia and soffits and terrible extensions are built onto them. Builders are certainly one problem, perhaps more so engineers and technicians pretending to be design professionals. However the general public is also largely at fault. There is nothing like the appreciation for built heritage here that there is across the water.

    3. Very interesting post Mark, is there a definition for what is a habitable structure?
      We are looking at a slate roof cottage being currently used as a cattle shed which unfortunately does not have a chimney but was once inhabited.

      1. Hi Ronan

        My opinion is that if the house hasn’t been lived in for a number of years (open to debate but say 10) that it loses it’s habitable status. I did see however the following which contradicts this – an interesting problem.

        “A habitable house includes a structure which was last used as a dwelling even if it is now in an unliveable condition. It also includes a building where the last permitted use was as a house, even if it has been in unauthorised use since. A derelict or run down building previously used as a habitable house, is still a habitable house.”


    4. Extract from the Planning and Development Act, 2000

      “habitable house” means a house which—

      (a) is used as a dwelling,

      (b) is not in use but when last used was used, disregarding any unauthorised use, as a dwelling and is not derelict, or

      (c) was provided for use as a dwelling but has not been occupied;

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