The Draft Planning and Development Amendment Regulations 2018 have been published, outlining the exemptions for changing the use of an existing commercial unit to a residential unit.

The key points emerging are as follows:
1.The structure must have been completed prior to the adoption of the Regulations.
2.The relevant commercial uses that can be changed to residential are the uses listed in Classes 1,2, 3 and 6 of the Planning Regulations. These include a shop, financial service, professional service, a service that is principally provided to visiting members of the public, office, guest house and hostel.
3.The structure must have previously used for one of the uses outlined in Classes 1, 2, 3 and 6.
4.The structure concerned must have been vacant for a period of 2 years or more immediately prior to the commencement of development.
5.Any related works shall affect only the interior of the structure and shall not materially affect the external appearance of the structure so as to render its appearance inconsistent with the character of the structure or of neighbouring structures.
6.Any related works for the alteration of existing ground floor shop fronts shall be consistent with fenestration details and architectural and streetscape character of the remainder of the structure of neighbouring structures.
7.The development cannot conflict with an objective of the Development Plan.
8.The exemption only applies to structures with 9 No. units or less.
9.The residential units shall comply with the Apartment Guidelines.
10.Habitable rooms shall have adequate natural lighting.
11.A Declaration is required for works relating to a Protected Structure before the exemption can be enacted.
12.The development shall not contravene a condition of a permission.
13. There are further restrictions relating to Article 9, SAAOs, SPCs and sites in proximity to Seveso sites.

The landowner must notify the Planning Authority of the proposed works at least 2 weeks prior to the commencement of development.

It would appear that the exemptions are quite restrictive in terms of their potential application and the legislation as currently drafted is unclear as to whether private open space is required to be provided. In our opinion the legislation should be extended to apply to developments over 9 No. units that have already met their Part V requirement (which appears to be the intention of Point 8 above to prevent the circumvention of Part V where schemes are close to the threshold of 9 No. units).

However, Thornton O’Connor Town Planning supports the continued efforts of the Minister in seeking to introduce proactive legislation to address the acute housing shortage.