Locals-only rules from the 2005 Rural Housing Guidelines remain in place until further notice, the Department of Housing told Selfbuild.

Locals-only rules prevent people without proven ties to the community to get planning permission on some greenfield sites, a policy that has led the EU to take legal proceedings against Ireland ten years ago.

“The Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Ireland in 2007 regarding discriminatory restrictions on the granting of dwelling authorisations in Ireland,” the European Commission told Selfbuild. “The Commission has since been in contact with the Irish authorities.”

That same infringement case is still open and in 2016, the Irish authorities informed the Commission of their intention to review the rules. Once new rules are notified to the Commission, the Commission services will assess them and decide on the next steps.

“Discussions are still ongoing with the local authority sector on the revision of the Rural Housing Guidelines, specifically the local needs criteria therein,” a Department of Housing spokesperson told Selfbuild.

“It is hoped that the revisions will be finalised in the coming months, by year end at the latest, after which revised guidelines will be issued to planning authorities.”

Taking into account the need for consultation with the European authorities, Selfbuild understands this means revised guidelines for the local authorities are unlikely to come to light until 2018.

In May 2017 the Oirechtas Library & Research Service published the EU’s position on the Flemish case, which is cited as the basis for removing locals-only rules in Ireland.

The EU Law and Local Residency Requirements for Planning Permission research note reviews the Flemish case and the Law Society’s report on locals-only rules (dated 2005):

“The [Law Society] authors state that discriminatory measures framed around family connections to an area are likely to be found to breach EU law, as the purposes they are intended to achieve (such as preserving rural characteristics etc.) can usually be attained without such discrimination,” summarised the Oireachtas note.

However Galway Councillor Jim Cuddy told Selfbuild he was hopeful a circular would be issued to local authorities in the second half of this year, instructing them to remove the locals-only requirement from their development plans.

Publication of Help to Buy review delayed

The review into the Help to Buy scheme, meanwhile, has also been delayed. The report is expected to inform the Cabinet on whether or not to scrap the scheme in this year’s budget.

A spokesperson for the Department of Finance told Selfbuild the Minister of Finance had yet to see the report. The publication date, he said, is “a matter for the Minister [of Finance]”.

The Minister for Housing had indicated in June that the report would be published today (31st August).


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Update 27 October 2017: The Department of Housing told Selfbuild  a working group comprising representatives from the Department and planning authorities was established in May 2017 to review and, where necessary, recommend changes to the 2005 Planning Guidelines on Sustainable Rural Housing  with a view to ensuring that rural housing policies and objectives contained in county development plans comply with the relevant provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The deliberations concluded last month (September 2017) and the Department is now expected to engage with the European Commission regarding the proposed changes.
The Department says the process should be finalised “later this year”.
Circular PL2/2017 instructs local authorities to keep current 2005 planning guidelines in place until further notice.
Update 15th February 2018: The Department of Housing told Selfbuild that negotiations with the European Commission were “ongoing”. On January 8th 2018 the position was that it would be “be a few weeks before any decision/announcement is made”; mid-December 2017 we were told “proposed changes” to be made to the 2005 Guidelines were expected to be finalised “early in 2018”.
Update 31st July 2018: The Department of Housing told SelfBuild they “hope to finalise the guidelines by late autumn.”
Update 26th September 2018: The Department of Housing told Selfbuild the working group “has concluded its deliberations”. We can expect the revisions to the 2005 Guidelines to be issued “by the end of this year”.