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File Photo: Derelict pub Alamy Stock Photo

No planning permission needed for conversion of vacant pubs into homes, says minister

The government wants to bring greater awareness to planning exemptions that allows for pub conversions.

NO PLANNING PERMISSION is needed for conversion of vacant pubs into homes, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has said.

O’Brien, TD told The Journal in December last year that he was working on measures to develop vacant above-shop units and pub conversions to help deal with the housing crunch.

The minister has now signed planning regulations that will exempt the conversion of former pubs into residential units from requiring planning permission.

The exemption is contained in an extension of 2018 Planning Regulations that allow a change of use of certain vacant commercial premises – including vacant areas above ground-floor premises – to residential use such as ‘above shop’ living.

The exemptions aim to increase the re-use of vacant commercial buildings to increase much-needed housing supply and renew urban areas.

Since 2018, just under 1,400 homes have been provided through these planning exemptions. The regulations signed by the minister extend the exemption to the end of 2025.

In order to convert former pubs into a home, the pub’s license must have lapsed.

A limit of nine residential units can be produced under an exempted development.

“Turning vacant properties into occupied homes is a major element of Housing for All. Unfortunately towns and villages across the country have seen pubs close their doors for the last time in recent years, not least over the last two years.

“This new planning regulation will ease the planning burden for those who want to convert small and medium-sized pubs that are no longer viable and have ceased to operate, into residential housing.

“The regulations will also continue to make it easier to get other forms of vacant commercial premises, including vacant spaces over ground floor premises, back into use for residential purposes such as ‘over the shop’ living,” said O’Brien.

The Minister of State for Planning and Local Government, Peter Burke said there is great potential for even more vacant properties to be converted into residential units through these regulations.

Increased awareness of these exemptions, including through the work of dedicated vacant homes officers in all local authorities, will help get more vacant properties back into use. 

The Housing Department held a meeting in January with all local authority vacant homes officers to discuss the challenge of vacancy and initiatives to ensure vacant homes are re-used for housing.

The department has said it has also communicated to all local authorities that there will be an increase to the annual contribution of funding a vacant homes officer from €50,000 to €60,000 per annum, subject to the local authority’s officer being full-time and preferably a permanent role.

The department also said that a Compulsory Purchase Order programme, to be implemented by local authorities, to purchase vacant properties for resale on the open market will ensure their use for residential purposes

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