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 Mayo and elsewhere to increase much-needed housing supply and renew urban areas'.
According to a press statement: "Since 2018, 103 residential units have been provided in county Mayo through 46 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 Mayo: (1 ) The pub’s license must have lapsed and (2 ) 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 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."
Commenting after signing the regulations, Minister O’Brien said: "Turning vacant properties into occupied homes is a major element of Housing for All. Unfortunately towns and villages in Mayo 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 Mayo.
"The regulations will also continue to make it easier to get other forms of vacant commercial premises in Mayo, 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 the planning regulations, added: "Since 2018, 103 homes have been provided from exempting the conversion of certain vacant commercial premises in Mayo. 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 Mayo 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 Mayo County Council and other local authorities, and the launch of a Town Centre First policy, which will revitalise town centres and their buildings."
Full-time Vacant Homes Officers in every Local Authority
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 ). Since 2018, the Department has made funding of €50,000 per annum available to each local authority to support the work of a Vacant Homes Office, including the funding of posts of VHO.
The Department is supporting Local Authorities to ensure the role of a VHO is focused on relevant actions in Housing for All and to complement the role of potential Town Regeneration Officers (provided for under Town Centre First ).
The VHO will have a particular role in driving two new Housing for All schemes: (1 ) The Croí Connaithe (Towns ) Initiative, to attract people to build their own homes, and support the refurbishment of vacant properties and (2 ) A Compulsory Purchase Order programme, to be implemented by local authorities, to purchase vacant properties for resale on the open market to ensure their use for residential purposes
In February, the Government published its Town Centre First policy. It contains 33 actions that give towns tools and resources to become more viable and attractive places in which to live, work, visit and run a business. The policy contains actions and funding streams to address vacancy and dereliction.