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ebuild is sad to announce its closure - it has become too time and resource intensive to develop, manage and maintain.

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Planning Permission - Part 1

Posted by joeirish , 22 January 2015 · 800 views

Like just about anywhere else there are lots of restrictions in place in Clare to limit building new houses just anywhere you want to. The well know planning laws. And permission is needed. So before we could buy out site outright we needed this important document. And there were some specific conditions in the area we had selected. For example here is a section from the County Council planning application document

1. The applicant must come within the definition of a ‘Local Rural Person’
2. The proposed site must be situated within their ‘Local Rural Area’
3. The applicant must have a ‘Local Rural Housing Need’

The first points essentially mean that you already have a connection with the area. Family living in the locality, or the applicant already lived in the area. And what defined living locally? Well that was clear, it had to be within 10 klilometres. First problem.

We drove from our current house and it was almost 20 kilometres to the proposed new site. Hmmm. Out with maps. Measured a straight line over the mountain (actually a hill!) and was it less than 10k? Or just over? Out with the computer. Google maps. How to measure "as the crow flies". Search online. Ahh, there's a tool in Google maps that lets you do this. Yeh.

Oh no, it's 10.31K. Damn. Now what. Phone the planning office. Get to speak to nice Mr Planning Officer.

"Well that may not be an issue as it depends on precisely where you are planning to build." I give him coords. He checks.
"Seems that it would not be an issue but how far is it?"
"10.31k"
"Are you sure? My online mapping tools says its more like 20k"
"Ah, that will be by road" says I. "I have measured as the crow flies."
"Oh have you now? Let me check that, I'll call you back."

Ten minutes later the phone rings.

"Well you know it doesn't say how the measuring is to be done so we could possibly accept 'as the crow flies' but you would still be over the 10k limit. However we are a bit flexible on this and if it is a requirement then provided you were in or around the 10k it wouldn't be a problem." (The specific wording is "... is defined as the rural area generally within a 10 km radius", my italics.)

We have a thing in Ireland called 'ish'. I'll see you around 7 ish means anytime between 7 and half ten! And here was a planner applying the same logic to this situation. Oh I do like the Irish way of doing things sometimes, less of the 'jobsworth' and more of 'let's see if we can sort this' approach.

Anyway in the end it didn't apply. And we also satisfied the other, third, criteria about the applicant having a ‘Local Rural Housing Need' which was that we wanted to retire and live in this area as we had a good network of friends and services locally. That was deemed OK for this point.

But then it transpired site was in a special area called "Rural Area Under Strong Urban Pressure (RAUSUP)" and we couldn't build there at all.

Or so the lady I spoke to a few weeks later said. Until I pointed out that the map her department had sent me in the meantime specifically showed the field/site we wanted planning for was outside this special area.
"No it's not"
"Yes it is"
"I'll have to check as I only just took over from A___, he got promoted to chief planner"
"Oh I spoke to him the other week about whether we lived close enough ..."
"Oh you're the person he told me about. Very funny, made me laugh at your definition. Not what they told us in college. I'll get back to you."

And here's a section from the map.
Attached Image
Note the portion coloured slightly darker grey. This indicates the RAUSUP. Or did it? According to the full map I had the dark grey colouring did not appear in the key. It did not signify anything. But maybe there was a misprint on my map?

She phoned back. She had mixed up her colours. The RAUSUP areas were in purple not dark grey so it was OK for us to build, she had checked with the Chief Planning Officer. Result!!

Then we heard from our architect that he had attended a "pre-planning" meeting with the planners. Apparently this is the first stage to see what was the overall likelihood of getting planning. Issues to be discussed included:

· Ability to achieve sightlines,
· SPA – have regard to the fact that the site is surrounded by SPA designation
· Ability to service the site via WWTS
· Elevated site – design should have regard to this and also to existing dwellings to the North-west.

I received an email from the planner saying that following these discussions as far as the planning department were concerned the "file was now closed". What on earth did that mean? A few phone calls later and it was explained that as far as the planners were concerned there were no issues at this stage that appeared to indicate planning would not be granted.

But permission would be subject to having a suitably designed dwelling, percolation test that showed the site would support its own wastewater treatment and that the site had a suitable water supply from a borehole and well. But more on that next time.

Four months in and still not purchased the site but at least some of the early teething troubles had been sorted.



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