Action 5.9 of Rebuilding Ireland and Action 6 of the Action Plan for Rural Development commit to reviewing planning legislation to allow the change of use of vacant commercial units in urban areas, including vacant or under-utilised areas over ground-floor premises, into residential units without having to go through the planning process.
My Department drafted the necessary revisions to the planning regulations to give effect to this action and draft exempted development regulations in this regard, titled the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2018, were laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 13 December 2017. The draft regulations were considered by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government on 23 January 2018 and subsequently received a positive resolution approving them from both Houses of the Oireachtas on 25 January.
The Regulations will operate for a limited period until 31 December 2021 and will apply to commercial buildings which have been lying vacant for at least 2 years. The exemptions relate primarily to works to the interior of such buildings and a number of restrictions will apply to these works, including that a maximum of 9 residential units can be provided in any one building, and that certain minimum standards relating to floor areas, storage space and the provision of natural light are met for each unit. In addition, development works undertaken will need to comply with the requirements of the Building Control Regulations, such as fire safety, structural stability and ventilation etc. In that regard, a Working Group has been established to examine the range of regulatory requirements applying to the redevelopment of vacant properties and is expected to finalise a report and guidance in Q2 2018.
I intend to make the regulations in the coming days, thereby bringing the exemptions into operation.