ROI Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy announced plans to exempt commercial premises from seeking planning permission to convert shops from commercial to residential use, although further deliberations are necessary before the draft regulations are approved.

“These draft regulations, if approved by the Oireachtas, will allow the change of use of certain vacant commercial premises such as empty shops and ‘over the shop’ type spaces to residential use without the need for planning permission,” Minister Murphy said today (14th December 2017).

Currently you must secure planning permission to convert premises from commercial to residential.

“This will have the dual benefit of facilitating the bringing on stream of urgently needed housing supply in high demand areas while simultaneously breathing new life into inner-core urban areas many of which have been adversely affected by the economic downturn,” he added.

The three sets of draft exempted development regulations now proposed relate to exemptions for:

  • development by Irish Water related to the provision of water services and the undertaking of normal day to day activities relating to same, such as maintenance type works,
  • the change of use, and any related works, relating to the conversion of vacant commercial premises for residential use (subject to certain limitations), on foot of the commitment in Rebuilding Ireland in this regard, and
  • amending existing provisions relating to certain works by statutory undertakers in providing telecommunications services, to support the rollout of the National Broadband Plan and extended mobile phone coverage.

This is the first step in the approval process for the relevant regulations, as set out in the Planning Act, which requires the draft regulations to be referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government for its consideration with a view to their subsequent approval by both Houses by way of positive resolution before they can be signed into law by the Minister.

According to Orla Hegarty of UCD, the Oireachtas Committee has put forward an alternative bill to fast-track above-the-shop conversions while addressing the issue of non-compliant, unsafe conversions. Video of the deliberations can be viewed here.