We’ve in­her­ited plan­ning per­mis­sion, but we don’t like the de­sign

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Property - - SUNDAY PROPERTY - Diar­muid Cronin is a reg­is­tered RIAI ar­chi­tect and direc­tor of Cronin Ar­chi­tects, cov­er­ing res­i­den­tial and other sec­tors. Visit cron­i­nar­chi­tects.ie

QWE have bought a house and have ‘in­her­ited’ a plan­ning per­mis­sion for a two-storey ex­ten­sion, but we don’t like the de­sign. How can we change it?

ATHIS is an is­sue which of­ten arises. You’re very wise to ac­knowl­edge where you don’t like the de­sign and to con­sider chang­ing it. Re­gret­tably, all too of­ten peo­ple pro­ceed and build in haste with ‘in­her­ited’ per­mis­sions (from prior own­er­ship or oth­er­wise) and then live with the con­se­quences — in some in­stances, for the rest of their life.

It’s cer­tainly pos­si­ble to change the de­sign and, de­pend­ing on the na­ture, this may or may not even re­quire plan­ning per­mis­sion.


Your first step should be to en­gage a reg­is­tered ar­chi­tect to con­sider the de­sign. This is a crit­i­cal step to en­sure you achieve a de­sign that best re­flects your needs and max­imises the po­ten­tial of your home. The process can start with a one­off con­sul­ta­tion for an ini­tial dis­cus­sion on what might be pos­si­ble. The cost of this is typ­i­cally ab­sorbed into agreed fees, should you choose to pro­ceed fur­ther.

Sim­ple changes such as re-or­gan­is­ing the in­ter­nal space, changes to pro­posed win­dow types/for­mat and the in­tro­duc­tion of rooflights can usu­ally be pos­si­ble with­out per­mis­sion, pro­vided these do not cause over­look­ing.

More fun­da­men­tal changes nor­mally re­quire per­mis­sion, and your ar­chi­tect should talk you through the en­tire build­ing and plan­ning process, as well as the many other statu­tory re­quire­ments. Re­gard­less of whether the fi­nal ex­ten­sion is a com­plete re-de­sign or just al­ter­ations to your in­her­ited de­sign, your ar­chi­tect will nor­mally look afresh at the whole house and guide you ac­cord­ingly.


Hav­ing to ap­ply for per­mis­sion cer­tainly shouldn’t be a de­ter­rent to rec­ti­fy­ing some­thing which will be such a large in­vest­ment and which should add long-term value to your home, not just fi­nan­cially, but more im­por­tantly in terms of qual­ity and the en­joy­ment of your home.

If per­mis­sion is re­quired for the changes (and your in­her­ited per­mis­sion is still valid), a new ap­pli­ca­tion can usu­ally be con­sid­ered by the lo­cal author­ity as ‘al­ter­ations to a pre­vi­ously granted per­mis­sion’, de­pend­ing on the ex­tent of changes. The prece­dence of your al­ready granted per­mis­sion should be ac­knowl­edged by the lo­cal author­ity and help with a new ap­pli­ca­tion.

The time in­volves a min­i­mum of three months, but can stretch to five to six months if any ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion is sought. In the ex­treme case that a de­ci­sion is ap­pealed to An Bord Pleanala, the timescale can be ex­tended fur­ther. How­ever a well-con­sid­ered ap­pli­ca­tion (to­gether with a pre-plan­ning con­sul­ta­tion with the lo­cal author­ity, if re­quired) should as­sist in a straight­for­ward ap­pli­ca­tion process.

Even if you de­cide not to con­sider a new ap­pli­ca­tion, in­ter­nal changes can be made which should be ac­cept­able to the lo­cal author­ity, pro­vided it doesn’t al­ter the ex­ten­sion size or height, the ex­ter­nal ap­pear­ance or cre­ate new is­sues of over­look­ing. In such cases, you should still take guid­ance from an ar­chi­tect where items such as light, ori­en­ta­tion and cir­cu­la­tion must still be taken into ac­count. Here are some com­mon is­sues that can oc­cur with poor de­sign and rea­sons you may need to re­vise what you have in­her­ited:


Ori­en­ta­tion and light are key con­sid­er­a­tions for an ar­chi­tect when de­sign­ing an ex­ten­sion and can hugely con­trib­ute to the qual­ity of the build­ing. Poor ori­en­ta­tion or ac­cess to light will there­fore have the op­po­site ef­fect, and de­signs which do not ex­ploit the light or views avail­able can be com­mon­place.

Ori­en­ta­tion might be in­flu­enced by a par­tic­u­lar view, a fo­cal point in a gar­den or to en­close an ex­ter­nal space such as a court­yard. It can also be used to prevent over­look­ing.

Light shouldn’t just be con­sid­ered in terms of how many win­dows there are to the walls of the ex­ten­sion, but how and where light en­ters. Roof win­dows, clerestory win­dows, opaque glaz­ing and de­flected light are all ad­di­tional forms of get­ting light into a build­ing. Sim­ple al­ter­ations such as win­dow heights (and win­dow type) can also make a big dif­fer­ence and are wor­thy of con­sid­er­a­tion.


Lay­out of the in­ter­nal space is cru­cial to a well­worked ex­ten­sion. Poor ex­am­ples, such as fail­ing to ad­dress the gar­den/ex­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment in the vicin­ity of the ex­ten­sion, or the ex­ten­sion be­ing a walk-through area to get to the out­side, can leave peo­ple liv­ing with and curs­ing these mis­takes. A sim­ple case may be a kitchen or seat­ing area which would be bet­ter served by be­ing a dead end space (if the size of ex­ten­sion al­lows) rather than com­pro­mised by peo­ple con­stantly walk­ing through.

A well-worked ex­ten­sion should there­fore prop­erly or­gan­ise the in­ter­nal lay­out and fully ex­ploit the po­ten­tial of the avail­able ex­ter­nal area. If done well (and with due con­sid­er­a­tion to landscaping), your ex­ten­sion can even use part of the ex­ter­nal area to be­come like an­other room to the house.


Poor de­sign can cre­ate over­look­ing is­sues from or to a neigh­bour­ing prop­erty. While this may not have been raised as an is­sue with the in­her­ited per­mis­sion, walk­ing di­rectly out of an ex­ten­sion to see your neigh­bour do­ing his early morn­ing stretch­ing rou­tine next door can be a re­flec­tion of a poorly thought-out ex­ten­sion! Landscaping and screen­ing can also play a big role here.

Sim­i­larly, your own pri­vacy should be fully thought-out in terms of win­dow lo­ca­tions and ori­en­ta­tion. Good de­sign should prevent this — or at least limit this — through care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion, ori­en­ta­tion and plan­ning.


Poor con­sid­er­a­tion of struc­ture and ser­vices can lead to ex­pen­sive and un­nec­es­sary costs, as well as de­tail­ing headaches at a later stage. Your ar­chi­tect will typ­i­cally look at both the ex­ist­ing and pro­posed struc­tures/ser­vices and ad­vise on the re­quire­ments of a struc­tural en­gi­neer or other con­sul­tants, as re­quired. A well thoughtout de­sign should con­sider its build­abil­ity/cost as well as en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact.

Sim­i­larly, the lo­ca­tion of ex­ist­ing and pro­posed ser­vices should be well thought-out, such as ex­ist­ing foul and sur­face wa­ter drains travers­ing the area of the ex­ten­sion, ex­ist­ing elec­tric­ity me­ters and lo­ca­tions of pro­posed ser­vices, such as down­pipes and out­lets. Poor lo­ca­tions or is­sues at con­struc­tion with ex­ist­ing ser­vices are a typ­i­cal in­dict­ment of poor de­sign from the out­set.

The un­der­ly­ing prin­ci­ple for any build­ing project is: bet­ter get it right than fast. Do you have a de­sign dilemma we can help you with? de­sign­clinic@in­de­pen­dent.ie. Ad­vice pro­vided is for guid­ance only and read­ers are ad­vised to seek pro­fes­sional as­sis­tance for any pro­posed project.

A well-de­signed ex­ten­sion makes good use of space and nat­u­ral light to cre­ate a use­ful space

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