Building sites becoming scarcer

County Development Plans are tightening up zoning rules, effectively reducing the number of self-build greenfield sites.

Louth, Wexford and Tipperary are the latest counties flagging issues with getting planning permission to build one-off houses on suitable land.

Locals only rules update

ROI’s Department of Housing tells Selfbuild its update to the 2005 Rural Housing Planning Guidelines “will not happen before November”.

The guidelines as they currently stand include a provision for only locals to be granted planning permission to self-build on specifically zoned greenfield sites – a position challenged over a decade ago by the European courts.

The draft guidelines were meant to be published in June; the Department of Housing press office told Selfbuild “departmental workload, environmental assessment considerations and public consultation” are causes for the delay.

Louth running out of sites

Meanwhile the Argus reports that Louth is running out of “suitable sites” to build on as the county recorded a 30 per cent increase in self-build applications for planning permission.
Councillors heard at their monthly meeting that in some cases, there are applications from six or seven members of the same family to build houses in the same field.

“Let’s not forget that this is probably going to be the most important decision a family will ever make, building their own home, that now because of delays, are probably going to be denied or refused planning permission, and this is likely to have a big impact on rural communities in Louth,” said Cllr Paula Butterly.

As the new County Development Plan is coming into force, the planners said “no one will be disenfranchised” if they do meet a genuine local need for planning and are able to qualify under the old plan.

Draft Tipp plan: have your say

In Tipperary, the Nenagh Guardian reported similar concerns as the Tipperary draft 2022-2028 County Development Plan was put out to public consultation.

Eamonn Lonergan, a Director of Services, said the aim of the new plan was to protect the environment and landscape. Cllr Máirín McGrath said she did have some concerns about provisions in the draft as they related to “ribbon development rules”.

What she wanted to see were policies that made it easier for young couples to build houses in the countryside. Cllr Michael Anglim agreed, saying he was not in favour of restrictions of house building on regional roads within the county, while Cllr Michael Fitzgerald said it could be “totally victimising the people”.

Cllr Kevin O’ Meara said it would be very unfair if the council was going to refuse young couples planning permission to build on sites along regional roads if the family providing the site had no alternative land to offer.

Cllr Micheál Lowry said a message seemed to have got out to the public that the council intended closing down planning in the county under the proposed new plan. He said this was misinformation with councillors agreeing that people should be allowed to build homes for themselves in the areas where they were born and reared.

Wexford rule changes

Members of Wexford County Council passed a number of motions calling for amendments to the criteria for planning permission for one-off rural housing.

The Wexford People reports the draft plan had recommended that priority be given in rural areas of strong urban influence to a person who has lived there full time for a minimum of 10 years and who has never owned a rural house before, with the site of the proposed house within a 5km radius of where they have resided. (In coastal areas, the site must be within a 3km radius.)

Cllr John Hegarty successfully proposed two amendment motions relating to permission for one-off rural houses in coastal areas, inserting the clause that “the person can work from home or commute to work daily”.

However, working from home would not be considered justification for an applicant receiving planning permission for a rural house. A person must have lived full time within the coastal zone for a minimum period of 10 years in order to fulfil the criteria.

“The three kilometre radius is for people who live in that area, not to facilitate people who want to live beside the seaside. We want to provide long-term houses for people to live in and contribute to the area they are living in,” said senior planner Diarmuid Houston.

Cllr Hegarty’s second coastal zone motion clarified that the 10 years of residence does not have to be concurrent and can have been at any time in the applicant’s life, to cater for people with childhood and family links to rural Wexford, in the interest of revitalising rural areas and sustaining communities.

Cllr Fleming also had motions passed, making reductions in the years of residence criteria and site distance for one off housing in stronger rural areas and structurally weak areas.

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Written by Astrid Madsen

Astrid Madsen is the editor of the SelfBuild magazine. Email

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