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Vacant pubs should be allowed planning exemption for conversion to residential units – Cummins

20th October 2021 - Senator John Cummins

A planning exemption to enable the use of former pubs for residential purposes would help drive the much-needed supply of housing across our cities, towns and villages, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

John Cummins, Fine Gael’s Seanad spokesman on Housing, welcomed confirmation from the Department of Housing that a review of planning regulations, that is currently underway, is examining the possibility of providing for an exemption for the conversion of vacant pubs to residential use.

Senator Cummins said: “The Planning and Development (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2018 provides for an exemption from the requirement to obtain planning permission in respect of the change of use of certain vacant commercial premises, including vacant areas above ground floor premises, to residential use.

“I along with colleagues in Government, believe due consideration must be given to every viable option to resolve the housing crisis.

“The 2018 regulations currently do not apply to former pubs, when in reality, they are probably the most appropriate premises fit for the scheme, and this is an issue I have been raising consistently in the Seanad.

“I was delighted to get confirmation today from my colleague, Peter Burke, Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government and Planning, that his department is currently undertaking a detailed review of the proposal with a view to including vacant pubs under this exemption.

“The draft regulations are due to be submitted to the Oireachtas for approval shortly and I believe this measure could boost the number of properties which could be used to house individuals and families.

“In my constituency, Waterford has been at the forefront of bringing derelict and vacant properties back into use. Fifty per cent of all Repair and Lease units nationally have been provided in Waterford, and this progress has rejuvenated areas of the city centre, delivering one and two bed family units.

“We’ve been able to reduce the number of families in emergency accommodation by 93% in the period 2017 to 2020 and individual homeless figures by 55% despite presentations effectively doubling in the same period and we have eradicated the use of hotels and B&Bs.

“While many housing units have been provided over the last couple of years in buildings which once housed pubs or restaurants, many had to go through a lengthy planning process which likely attracted development contributions and other associated professional costs.

“Many former pubs would make excellent residential homes for individuals and families. That is why it is my strong belief we should do everything possible to facilitate the owners of vacant pubs in turning them into residential units. By removing the requirement for planning permission, it would speed up delivery and prevent many more from remaining idle into the future,” Senator Cummins concluded.

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