Thursday 22 January 2009

How to object to that monstrosity planned next door

SO YOUR neighbour wants to build a large extension to their home and is applying for planning permission. This is a scenario more and more home owners will face as market conditions and lack of finance force people to remain in situ and extend rather than trade up to another property.

Any adult, Irish or otherwise, can object to any planning application, or planning granted, anywhere in Ireland, even if they don’t live in the same street, same county or even same country.

And it can bring results, even if not all the time. The latest figures indicate that more than one-third of all third-party planning appeals in 2007 were successful in that An Bord Pleanála either refused, or amended, permission granted to a developer/first party by a local authority.

Ideally a neighbour will have outlined their plans and will provide an opportunity to discuss issues that are of concern, such as privacy, light, noise and impact on property values.

It is also important to consider the building programme and construction noise, especially if there is an elderly or sick person whose sleep might suffer unless some long noise-breaks are agreed. Even if neighbourly relations are cosy it is still a good idea to check on the planning application details in the local authority’s offices.

There are various ways in which a new build may interfere but there are no set rules and regulations that can govern all aspects of extensions or developments. Potential grounds for objection include its height – if it should exceed height of buildings in the area. Equally it should not unduly impact on your light or overlook your property if, for instance, the proposed development will interfere with the work or activity carried out in the affected room or area in question. The development should not encroach on adjoining properties. Undermining foundations, screening walls and tree planting are other potential issues while a common problem is building up to party walls without leaving an option to paint rendering without entering the neighbouring property. Sitting-out areas at first floor levels can also have a major impact on the privacy of neighbours and have seen some acrimonious relations develop.

It is no harm to look up the development plan for the areas and get a flavour of what the planners think is appropriate or otherwise. A look at the planning history on the site is another good idea to see if it has had previous refusals. Subsequent appellants should also look at the planner’s report on these applications in case there are further grounds contained there which could be usefully repeated in the appeal.

If unhappy with any of the application then an observation must be written to the local planning authority prior to its permission decision. Any submission must give the name and address of person making the observation as well as the application’s reference number.

This is vital for an appeal to be made to An Bord Pleanála, should the development get permission from the local authority.

Without an acknowledgement by the local authority of a submission or observation to the planning authority at the original application stage the appeal is invalid. This observation must be made to the local authority within five weeks of the planning application lodgement and costs €20.

If you want to appeal permission granted by the local authority it must be made to An Bord Pleanála within four weeks of the decision date. You may appeal the decision of the planning authority (usually the first party might appeal a refusal of permission and the third party might appeal a granting) or the conditions of a decision to grant permission.

It is important to post or deliver it by hand to an employee of An Bord Pleanála, 64 Marlborough Street, Dublin 1. Appeals put in the letterbox are considered invalid. The appeal must also include the correct fee, and these vary extensively (see Generally a third party appeal costs about €220. Appellants can combine as a group for one fee.

“It is wise to check with the board that a valid appeal has been lodged, well in time to repair any fault in service before the deadline,” says town planner Auveen Byrne. “A common mistake of third parties is to lodge the appeals too late, in which case the appeal is returned to the appellant as invalid.”

The appeal must contain the appellant’s name and address, the address of the property concerned, the planning reference number, and nature for appeal, i.e. decision to grant permission or conditions that apply, as well as supporting material and arguments.

The grounds of the appeal must also be clear. Appellants should state how they are affected by the proposed development and why they are appealing. With 25 years experience in the area Byrne advises: “An appellant does not have to be directly affected by a proposed development to make an appeal. For example, a Dublin person might be concerned about the effect of a proposed out-of-town retail development on a rural heritage town which they visit on holiday. This is reasonable and valid. However, an appeal giving a Dublin address, complaining of the development and not stating the appellant’s interest, might appear to be without substance, or “spawned” by a competitor retailer, interested in eliminating the competition.

“The applicant’s advisors will certainly be calling for its dismissal so avoid any suspicion; an appellant should state clearly their interest and validate it where possible.”

An Bord Pleanála then sends a copy of the appeal to the planning authority and developer who have four weeks to submit views.

The board might want more information from an appellant on specific matters relating to an appeal, or may allow an appellant to comment on a submission of one of the other parties. But this is entirely at the board’s discretion and any additional grounds of appeal or additional commentary sent to the board without invitation will be returned. So, make sure all the arguments are contained within the appeal document.

The decision to hold an oral hearing is at the discretion of the board, but they are relatively rare. Most commonly they are held where developments are likely to have significant impacts or where the complexity would benefit from face-to-face discussion and debate by the parties. The oral hearing is presided over by the board’s inspector and is relatively informal.

There is no requirement for a third party to have professional representation at an oral hearing but a consultant town planner could ensure that the best case is presented. The board’s objective is to make a decision within 18 weeks and it can dismiss an appeal where it is satisfied the appeal is vexatious, frivolous or without substance or foundation, or where the appeal is made with the sole intention of delaying development or securing payment of money or other inducements

An Bord Pleanála’s decision is considered final and can only be challenged with a judicial review in the High Court within eight weeks of the decision.

Irish Times

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