Planning and Building Control

Planning Permission

There are broadly similar systems of planning permission and building control in Ireland and the UK. As in the UK, planning permission is required to any change of use to property and to building works. Accordingly, the construction of a building and most significant extensions and alterations affecting the exterior, requires planning permission.

Protected structures are the equivalent of listed buildings. In the same way, works to the interior which might generally be exempt for other buildings, require planning permission in the case of a protected structure for much the same reasons and on much the same terms, as listed building consent.

In the same manner as the generally permitted development order in England and Wales, significant types of minor works do not require planning permission provided, the prescribed exemption conditions are complied with.

A change of use of premises requires planning permission in itself. There are classes of use within which planning permission is not generally required.

The Planning Decision

Local authorities prepare a development plan comprising a plan and multiple policy documents which provide the criteria with reference to which planning applications are made. The planning permission comprises plans and drawings togetheer with certain written material. A procedure is applicable for its lodgement with the Council planning department.

The planning decision is made by the professional planning Inspectorate, rather than a committee of the elected members of the council. It may approve the planning application with or without conditions or may refuse it. Unlike the position in the UK, there is a right of appeal both for the applicant and for third parties who have made observations on the application to a national planning appeal authority. It may make a different decision to the Council.

Building Regulations

Building control and building regulations are similar, in broad terms, to those in England and Wales and Northern Ireland. The substantive building regulations themselves cover all aspects of the construction, fire safety, thermal efficiency, disabled access and several other important aspects of building works.

The building control system is somewhat different to that England and Wales although it seeks to achieve the same result. A building regulation consent is not required. For commercial buildings, a fire safety certificate and disabled access certificate are required.

The applications can be combined in most cases with a commencement notice which must be accompanied by draft certification documentation generally completed by persons who will ultimately certify compliance, including the designer and builder. Ultimately, on completion of the work, certificates of compliance by the builder and assigned certifier must be lodged with the council, which is the building control authority.

Issues on Purchase and Lease

The issues of planning permission and building regulation compliance are critical in the context of a purchase or a lease. On a purchase,  the seller may warrant the existing compliance position or may delete the standard compliance warranty, thereby requiring the purchaser to investigate compliance in full in advance.

Equally, in a lease, the landlord frequently requires the tenant to satisfy itself as to the planning and building regulations status,  particularly in the context of the proposed use of the premises. In some cases, there can be difficult issues of interpretation in the context of a change of use.

There is a general time limit on the enforcement of planning permission of seven years and on building regulations of five years. Unlike the UK there is no deemed grant of planning permission so that the non-compliance in breach continue to have some residual consequences which can be significant in some circumstances.

It is common practice, particularly on purchases that an independent architect or surveyor certify the compliance status of the premises as built and in situ, with the governing planning permission and building regulations.

Other Compliance Issues

There is a range of other statutory schemes and issues which may affect premises. In particular commercial premises may be subject to general or specific regulatory requirements. The health safety and welfare of work legislation has requirements in respect of workplaces, that are very similar to those in the UK, being derived in large part from a common EU basis.

Even where works are exempt from building control enforcement, fire safety laws and other laws on minimum standards may mean that the state and condition is so poor that they are vulnerable to enforcement. Apart from issues of legal compliance non-compliance may have practical consequences in terms of the  usability of a building or its use for the intened purpose.