Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Does externally insulating your house require planning permission?

There is widespread confusion over the planning requirements for externally insulating a house. Does it or does it not require planning permission? The answer to this question is very important for anyone considering carrying out external insulation works to their home under the Home Energy Saving scheme. But it is also important for any individual, business or community body considering having such energy efficiency improvement work applied to their premises.

The issue is further confused because there is disagreement amongst planners working across the country as to whether external insulation constitutes exempted development (no planning application required) or whether a planning application is required. The difficulty appears to arise because the answer to this question is meted out on a case-by-case basis by individual planners each with their own opinions.

However, as a study of Dublin City Council assessments of this issue, provided below, shows, there is growing consistency among planners on this issue. Such consistency has made it possible for me to advise clients on this issue. In what follows, I share this advice.

Do you need planning permission?

Most firms offering to carry out external insulation works and Sustainable Energy Ireland all point out how external insulation works to your home under the Home Energy Saving scheme may be exempt from the planning permission requirements.

However, it should be noted that external insulation of a structure would constitute exempted development under Section 4 (1) (h) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 only if it “constituted works which do not materially affect the external appearance of the structure so as to render the appearance inconsistent with the character of the structure or of neighbouring structures”.

If there is any doubt about whether or not the external insulation proposed for your home will affect the character of the structure, you are normally advised to contact the planning authority in your area to clarify the matter.

But what happens when there is disagreement amongst planners over the assessment of external insulation under Section 4 (1) (h)? Then, the issue is further complicated in the case of Protected Structures for which a Section 57 application is also required. Section 57 (1) states:

Notwithstanding section 4 (1)(h), the carrying out of works to a protected structure, or a proposed protected structure, shall be exempted development only if those works would not materially affect the character of - (a) the structure, or (b) any element of the structure which contributes to its special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest.

Recently, there has been growing use by those proposing to use external insulation of Section 5 of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2010 to tell them whether planning permission is or is not required.

Why use Section 5 of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2010?

For those of you who don’t know what a Section 5 is, it is an application to a planning authority for a declaration as to whether or not a proposal is development or is exempted development – whether it requires planning permission or not. Simply put, if a question arises as to what, in any particular case, is or is not development or is or is not exempted development within the meaning of the Planning Acts 2000-2010, any person may, on payment of a fee, request in writing from the relevant planning authority a declaration on that question. You have to provide to the planning authority any information necessary to enable the authority to make its decision on the matter.

The Section 5 process may tell you that you require planning permission for external wall insulation. The need for planning permission will depend on a number of things, for example, whether it will affect the external appearance of the building or whether the building is a protected structure. So, before installing external insulation, you must first apply to your local authority using a Section 5 Form (Declaration of Exemption). The fee for this application is €80 and the form must be accompanied by two site location maps. These maps can be purchased from the Ordnance Survey. The application then goes before the planner for the area who decides if planning permission is needed. Decisions are generally given within four weeks of its receipt.

How are Section 5 applications for external insulation assessed?

Being told to lodge a Section 5 is not sufficient for most of my own clients. They wish to know how the Section 5 will be assessed. In order to advise those asking me this question in recent months, I have carried out a short study of recent assessments of this issue by Dublin City Council which has and is continuing to experience considerable numbers of Section 5 applications for external insulation.

I have reviewed nine completed Section 5 cases and I have included a tenth which I ask those reading this article to predict the outcome of, as by the end of reading the following you will be able to carry out your own Section 5 assessment.

The Section 5 cases:

10 Section 5 cases are reviewed below:

Case 1: Under Section 5 planning file, reg. ref. 0180/11, the owners of 59, Harold's Cross Road, Dublin 6w asked if 100mm exterior insulation which they had already applied to the front of their house, with a maintenance free pebble-dash finish with brick detail similar to other houses on the road, would require planning permission. The dwelling was not a Protected Structure.

An Exemption Certificate was granted under 4 (1) (h) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 to 2010 which allows for works to a property: “for the improvement of the property which does not affect the external appearance of the structure so as to render the appearance inconsistent with the character of the neighbouring structures”.

The planning assessment found in favour of the applicant on the basis that the finish applied matched that of the original dwelling. The Planner stated: “The applicant has maintained the brick detail and the peddle dash on the front elevation”.

Case 2: Under Section 5 planning file, reg. ref. 0241/10, the owners of 93, Walsh Road, Drumcondra, Dublin 9 asked whether the: “external insulation of their house” - 100mm PIR insulationboard fitted to the exterior front and back wall and finished in pebble dash similar to existing extension wall – constituted development or exempted development.

The planner found planning permission to be required due to: “non compliance with Section 4(1)(h) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended)”. It is useful to review the assessment. The planner began by assessing whether the proposal constituted “development”. Reference was made to the definition of “development” provided in Section 3 (1) of the Planning and Development Act 2009 and the definition of “works” provided in Part 1, Section 2 of the Planning Acts. The proposal was assessed as “works” and therefore as “development”.

Section 4 (1) of the Planning and Development Acts states that specified development shall be exempted. Section 4 (1) (h) exempts:

"… development consisting of the carrying out of works for the maintenance, improvement or other alteration of any structure, being works which affect only the interior of the structure or which do not materially affect the external appearance of the structure so as to render the appearance inconsistent with the character of the structure or of neighbouring structures".

The planner then assessed whether the proposal would materially affect the appearance of the structure so as to either: (1) Render the external appearance of the structure inconsistent with the character of the structure; or (2) Render the external appearance of the structure inconsistent with the character of neighbouring structures.

The planner then considered what determines the character of the structure and neighbouring structure. It was considered that the proposal could have: “significant implications for the appearance of the elevation” which could also “result in an external appearance of the property that would render it inconsistent with the character of adjacent structures”.

The planner sought additional information. This was not submitted. The owners therefore failed to secure an Exemption Certificate for their proposals. The assessment of same found that, “the provision of external insulation to the façade of the dwelling, is considered not to be exempted development due to non compliance with Section 4(1)(h) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended)”.

Under planning file, reg. ref. 2227/11, the owners of 93, Walsh Road, Drumcondra, Dublin 9 decided to apply for planning permission for the addition of 100mm external insulation to the front and rear facades of the existing house with render finish coat to match existing would require planning permission.

In assessing the planning application, the planner stated:

“the subsequent difference in plane levels which the development will create along the façade of the terrace will not actually be that noticeable … it is considered that the proposed development, would not injure the amenity of property in the vicinity”.

Planning permission was granted subject to Condition No. 2 which stated: “2) The external finish shall match the existing house in respect of materials and colour. Reason: To protect existing amenities.”

Case 3: Under Section 5 planning file, reg. ref. 0211/10, the owners of 31, Foyle Road, Marino, Dublin 3 asked whether the fitting of “external wall insulation to the rear elevation of the property” required planning permission.

The planner assessing the Section 5 followed the steps set out in Case 2 above. The planner found:

"It is considered that whilst the addition of 13cm (approx) of materials to the rear wall is substantial, there is considerable variety of building design across the rear of this and neighbouring properties – largely arising from additions to the buildings. In relation to assessment under 4 (1) (h), the treatment of the rear of the property should not render the appearance of the structure inconsistent with the character of the structure or of neighbouring structures. It should be noted that the insulation proposal is restricted to the rear elevation, and the Planning Authority may take a different view in relation to the front façade which is more sensitive in relation to impacts on character."

An Exemption Certificate was therefore issued.

Case 4: Under Section 5 planning file, reg. ref. 0124/10, the owners of 62, Jamestown Road, Inchicore, Dublin 8 asked whether the fitting of: “External render insulation system under current SEI guidelines, all external walls, render to match current finish on house” required planning permission.

The planner firstly responded by asking for additional information with respect to:

"… the depth of the proposed insulation and sections showing how the proposed works will affect the profile and depth of openings and how it will alter the relationship of the external wall with the eaves, the adjoining properties and where the side wall of the dwelling meets the boundary wall on the laneway to the east of the dwelling".

Following the submission of these details, an Exemption Certificate was granted because the proposed works were assessed to have no material impact on the structure or on neighbouring structures.

Case 5: Under Section 5 planning file, reg. ref. 0178/11, the owners of 122, Ardlea Road, Artane, Dublin 5 asked whether the fitting of: “External insulation with acrylic finish and colour as close as possible to original” required planning permission.

The planner refers to the legislation defining “Development” as set out in Case 2 above and the found:

"Taking account of the scope and extent of the works proposed, of the siting of the building and of the absence of any architectural detail of special character on the facades, it is considered that the proposed works would not materially affect the external appearance of the structure so as to render the appearance inconsistent with the character of the structure or of neighbouring structures."

An Exemption Certificate was therefore issued.

Case 6: Under Section 5 planning file, reg. ref. 0115/11, the owners of 39, Tritonville Road, Sandymount, Dublin 4 asked whether the fitting of: “external insulation which has been affixed to the front façade” required planning permission.

An Exemption Certificate was refused. In assessing this Section 5, the planner followed the steps set out in Case 2 above. She described the site in detail and finally noted how:

"I am of the view that the extent to which the main face of the building extends forward of the front building line of the adjoining terraced houses results in the character of No. 39 Tritonville Road being inconsistent with the character of the adjoining houses … Accordingly, I am of the view that works subject of this Section 5 constitute development and do not constitute exempted development".

The owners will need to obtain planning permission.

Case 7: Under Section 5 planning file, reg. ref. 0115/11, the Markiewicz Community Centre, 205, Decies Road, Dublin 10 asked whether the fitting of: “External insulation to front and back of the building” required planning permission. The applicant also stated: “The thickness of the insulation on the front of the building is 80mm when finished, the plaster finish will match the existing building”.

An Exemption Certificate was refused. In assessing this Section 5, the planner followed the steps set out in Case 2 above. She then described the site in detail and finally noted how:

"The general appearance of the building will be maintained in that the plaster mouldings around the windows will be re-instated with a smooth napp finish to the same profile. The main render finish will be a rough napp finish to the same profile. Given the design of the building with existing projections to the façade it is deemed that the proposed external insulation will not alter the appearance of the dwelling so as to render the appearance inconsistent with the character of the structure or of neighbouring structures and it is therefore deemed to be exempt under section 4(1)(h) of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001".

Case 8: Under Section 5 planning file, reg. ref. 0084/11, the owners of 91, Comeragh Road, Drimnagh, Dublin 12 (a Protected Structure) asked whether the fitting of: “External insulation of house, front & back [sic]” required planning permission.

In assessing this Section 5, the planner decided to refuse an Exemption Certificate for the application of external insulation to the front elevation but granted an Exemption Certificate for the rear elevation.

The planner stated in respect of the front elevation proposals:

“It is considered that the above work would not come within the meaning of Section 4(1)(h) and Section 57 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and would materially affect the character of the Protected Structure and therefore would require planning permission”.

Case 9: Under Section 5 planning file, reg. ref. 0013/11, the owners of 13, McKee Avenue, Finglas East, Dublin 11 asked whether the fitting of: “External insulation to be finished to match existing in colour and texture” required planning permission.

An Exemption Certificate was issued because the planner assessed the proposal to constitute Exempted Development as defined under Section 4 (1) (h) of the Planning and Development Act 2000.

Can you predict the outcome of Case 10?

Case 10: Under Section 5 planning file, reg. ref. 0164/11, the owners of 42, Willow Park Crescent, Glasnevin North, Dublin 11 31, Foyle Road, Marino, Dublin 3 have asked whether the fitting of: “External wall insulation for energy efficiency” required planning permission.

The owners have stated how: “It will not materially affect the character of the house. The proposed insulation will have a depth of 90-100mm. Matching red brick will be applied to the front wall and replicating dash finish to sides and back”.

This case is yet to conclude.

Summary of study:

The crux of all of the assessments detailed above is whether a proposal to apply external insulation can be considered exempt development under Section 4 (1) (h) of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2010. The assessment of this requires a planner to ask whether the proposal will materially affect the appearance of the structure so as to either:

(1) Render the external appearance of the structure inconsistent with the character of the structure; or

(2) Render the external appearance of the structure inconsistent with the character of neighbouring structures.

If you are considering applying external insulation and after its application your building will look similar or identical to how it does now and will not cause projection (mainly of the front elevation) past adjoining elevations, e.g. in a terrace situation, then your works are likely to be exempt under Section 4 (1) (h).

If you are considering applying external insulation and after its application your building will look different or substantially different to it does now and your elevations (especially your front elevation) will project past adjoining buildings, then your works are not likely to be exempt under Section 4 (1) (h).

Conclusion:

If you wish to carry out external insulation works without planning permission, you must ensure that the appearance of the house is not materially altered such that the changes detract from the existing building or from adjoining buildings. You should be especially concerned to ensure the front elevation is not materially altered by the works.

If you wish to discuss your proposals and whether they require planning permission, please call Brendan on 087-2615871.

Brendan Buck
www.bpsplanningconsultants.ie
www.buckplanning.ie

6 comments:

Mudhouseman said...

With the benefit of Google Street View (hope this is not cheating), the property appears to be a semi-detached bungalow. If external insulation is fitted (certainly in regard to front elevation), it will sit proud of the neighbouring façade and be evident at party wall junction and the soffit overhang difference will be evident. Also, this seems to be one of the few semi-detached blocks in the area that looks original at the front (many surrounding blocks look to have been heavily extended/amended). I reckon refusal of Section 5 application would result.
However, if I were to try and put forward a case to justify Section 5 approval, the brick colour, window breakup and fascia/soffit colours are clearly different on both houses, with two readily identifiable halves to the semi-detached block. Would the profile difference created by the fitting of external insulation, suitably finished in brick slip (front elevation) render the external appearance inconsistent with the current character of the semi-detached block? It could be put forward that a visual difference already exists which would not be greatly altered by the fitting of the external insulation, properly finished. Might just be clutching at straws??
Would lean more so towards Section 5 refusal. Please post the outcome.

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Aidan C said...

Excellent information.
Very useful information
Is there a legal definition of " material alteration"
And " material change of use.

I have come across a section 5, asking if removal of timber cladding on the first floor of a building is a material alteration, I believe it is.
It consist of approx 1/4 of the front facade , at first floor level wher the bedroom projects forward.
The question of being consutent with adjoins property is a moot point as all of the estate is to be changed.
Any thoughts?

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Niall O'Connor said...

Help!.

I would like to get external insulation to a gable wall of my two story house . My gable is next to my neighbours side garden . I have dampness getting through the render and it is showing inside the wall which is built of brick . This house is over a 100 years old. My neighbour has stated that any works to the side of my house must be done through a Solicitor . I am in the process of getting a "worksorder" through the court to gain access to his property to get work done on my gable wall.
The question is ; is there a problem with the thickness of the insulation going beyond my boundary ?
Re-plastering is not the solution for me as it may crack again and as the wall has no cavity ,I could end up with the same problem of dampness getting through ,and I would really like to insulate this cold wall . Internal insulation would leave me with dampness behind the warmboard and floor joists could still get wet . My house is about 3 meters away from his .I would be getting a professional firm to carry out these works ,any advice appreciated !.

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