26 Sept 2022

No planning permission needed to turn old Waterford pubs into homes

The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, TD, has signed Planning Regulations that will exempt the conversion of former pubs into residential units from requiring planning permission.

The new exemption is contained in an extension of 2018 Planning Regulations that allow a change of use of certain vacant commercial premises - including vacant areas above ground-floor premises - to residential use such as ‘above shop’ living. 

The exemptions aim to increase the re-use of vacant commercial buildings in Waterford and elsewhere to increase much-needed housing supply and renew urban areas. Since 2018, 74 residential units have been provided in county Waterford through 25 notifications of exempted developments. The regulations signed by Minister O’Brien extend the exemption to the end of 2025. 

For the conversion of former pubs into a home/homes in Waterford: the pub’s license must have lapsed and a limit of 9 residential units can be produced under an exempted development.

The review and extension of these planning regulations fulfil a commitment made in Housing for All, the Government’s national plan on housing to 2030. The plan contains a range of actions and measures to ensure over 300,000 new social, affordable, cost rental and private homes are built by 2030, backed by over €20 billion in guaranteed State investment to the end of 2026. Data shows that the construction of almost 31,000 homes commenced in 2021, a 42% increase on the numbers constructed in 2020.     

Speaking during a visit to Waterford today, Minister O’Brien said: “Turning vacant properties into occupied homes is a major element of Housing for All. Unfortunately towns and villages in Waterford have seen pubs close their doors for the last time in recent years, not least over the last two years. This new planning regulation will ease the planning burden for those who want to convert small and medium-sized pubs that are no longer viable and have ceased to operate, into residential housing for Waterford. The regulations will also continue to make it easier to get other forms of vacant commercial premises in Waterford, including vacant spaces over ground floor premises, back into use for residential purposes such as ‘over the shop’ living.”   

The Minister of State for Planning and Local Government, Peter Burke, TD, who also worked on these planning regulations, added: “Since 2018, 74 homes have been provided from exempting the conversion of certain vacant commercial premises in Waterford. I believe there is great potential for even more vacant properties to be converted into residential units through these regulations. Increased awareness of these exemptions, including through the work of Waterford City and County Council, will help get more vacant properties back into use.

"This measure supports the Government’s other measures to tackle vacancy, including increased funding for full-time Vacant Homes Officers in Waterford City and County Council and other local authorities, and the launch of a Town Centre First policy, which will revitalise town centres and their buildings.”

In January, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage held a workshop with the local authorities’ Vacant Homes Officers (VHOs) to discuss the challenge of vacancy and initiatives to ensure vacant homes are re-used for housing, where appropriate.

It also issued a communication to local authorities outlining that it will increase its annual contribution to the funding of local authorities’ Vacant Homes Offices from €50,000 to €60,000 per annum, subject to the local authority’s VHO being full-time (and preferably a permanent role).

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