Ten Tips on Irish Planning Law

The Irish planning system has only been in place since 1963. The single most important piece of legislation is the Planning and Development Act, 2000 and most current developments will be regulated under that Act or subsequent minor legislation. The system is overseen by local planning authorities in each County, with some larger counties (e.g. Dublin) subdivided even further. The ultimate appeal board is An Bord Pleanala, based in Dublin, which handles appeals from all over the country. Here are ten simple pointers to watch for in the Irish system:

  1. You won’t find any planning documents older than 1963. When people advertise old houses as “pre 1963” they mean that it’s a bedsit/tenement scenario with no planning history. Only for the bravest of buyers.
  2. Compliance Opinions only really came into fashion in the 1980’s (earliest). You won’t find any older ones.
  3. If no planning enforcement has taken place against a development for 7 years, the Local Authority are stature barred from enforcing.
  4. If a property complies with planning permission it does not mean that it complies with Building Control (under the Building Regulations). That is a separate regime. When acquiring you need to be sure that both aspects are covered.
  5. The planning register is publicly searchable but often incomplete. Some local authorities are better than others in posting information. Best source of information is the planning file and some of these are archived, so can take time to get.
  6. Always check on zoning if you are looking at a redevelopment play. County Development plans are updated every 5 years and zoning can (and frequently does) change. What might have been possible 10 years ago may be prohibited now.
  7. Be sure to check the local authority levies situation when applying. Most local authorities have updated their financial contribution requirements over the last few years. If acquiring a part-built development, make sure you get full information on any outstanding unpaid bills. These can be expensive.
  8. Before acquiring or bidding on a property make sure your lawyer runs a planning search to see whether there are any hidden problems – zoning, CPO, enforcements, declined permissions. It will be the best €50 you will spend in your due diligence.
  9. If a site has any kind of environmental history, get it checked out by specialists. Don’t buy a petrol station without getting the tanks checked. Ignore the branding, do the checks. The planning search and history will not help you there.
  10. When buying a distressed property (i.e from a Receiver, Examiner or Liquidator) they will not be providing any warranties on the planning situation. Run your searches but pay for an independent planning report before buying. It is “buyer beware” territory – nobody to go to if you find out too late.

The Irish planning system has been likened to “wading through treacle” in the past. It has improved a lot but is slow, time and energy consuming. Getting good advice on development planning at the outset (get your team together in a room – legal, planning. Architect and contractor) will save time, manage expectations (for investors and bankers) and ensure a smooth transition from green field to completed development.

John Hogan heads up our Commercial Property team and acts for developers in all aspects of acquiring, financing, developing and selling properties.



This publication is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice. No liability is accepted by Ogier Leman for any action taken or not taken in reliance on the information set out in this publication. Professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this publication. Any and all information is subject to change.

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