Local Fine Gael Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, has welcomed the signing of 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 Westmeath and elsewhere to increase much-needed housing supply and renew urban areas.
Since 2018, 41 residential units have been provided in County Westmeath through 19 notifications of exempted developments.
For the conversion of former pubs into a home/homes in Westmeath the pub’s licence must have lapsed, and a limit of nine residential units can be produced under an exempted development.
The review and extension of these planning regulations fulfils 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 more than 300,000 new social, affordable, rental and private homes are built by 2030, backed by over €20 billion in guaranteed State investment to the end of 2026.
“Turning vacant properties into occupied homes is a major element of the Government’s ‘Housing For All’ programme,” Minister Burke said.
“Unfortunately. towns and villages in Westmeath 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 Westmeath.
“The regulations will also continue to make it easier to get other forms of vacant commercial premises in Westmeath, including vacant spaces over ground floor premises, back into use for residential purposes such as ‘over the shop’ living.”
“Since 2018, 41 homes have been provided from exempting the conversion of certain vacant commercial premises in Westmeath. 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 Westmeath 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 Westmeath County Council and other local authorities, and the launch of a Town Centre First policy, which will revitalise town centres and their buildings,” Deputy Burke concluded.