Action 5.9 of the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness and Action 6 of the Action Plan for Rural Development committed 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.
To give effect to this action, my Department brought forward the necessary revisions to the planning regulations through the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2018 which were signed and brought into operation on 8 February 2018.
The planning exemptions under these Regulations, which have a two-fold purpose in facilitating urban renewal and increased housing supply, operate for a limited period until 31 December 2021 and apply to commercial buildings which have been lying vacant for at least two years. The exemptions relate primarily to works to the interior of such buildings and a number of restrictions 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 need to comply with the requirements of the Building Control Regulations, such as fire safety, structural stability and ventilation etc. Additional work is being progressed in my Department on further streamlining, and providing guidance on, the building control regulatory requirements in relation to the conversion of vacant premises, including vacant spaces over retail units, into residential use. I expect this updated guidance to be finalised next month.