Protected Structure - Dark Arts

Was helping a friend who has bought a protected structure on a good road.
She has consulted with conservation architects on the renovation and has a problem.
She wants to merge two rooms but the architect thinks she won’t get approval.
She was thinking of gettng a builder to take down adjoining wall and apply for rest formally.
(there are no existing plans for the structure out there).
She has already spoken to a builder who has said no problem (called it ‘dark arts’ work).
Seems high risk to me but am I being too conservative / old fashioned here?
Anybody heard or know of people doing this?

Would you mind disclosing what two rooms your friend wants to merge?

The main points that should be stressed (where applicable) in an application are:

  • Proposed works promote modern family living
  • Proposed works will extend the likely future useful life of the property through renovation
  • Your friend is doing conservation work to ensure the preservation all possible original features, and this merging would improve the house

On the other hand, if your friend is trying to merge two original reception rooms for the sake of having a 50FT long monstrous room, then I can understand why the conservation architect would be weary. The likes of merging tiny rooms like a pantry, breakfast room, kitchen, utility, cloak room, etc. to the rear of the house is allowed very often and further extension is also allowed. You’ll see on the best roads in Dublin all kinds of extensions are allowed and mostly this involves merging small older rooms to provide large kitchen/dining/living rooms to the rear and the promotion of modern family living and the extension of the future useful life of the property are the main arguments. In most cases, ‘important’ original rooms such as reception rooms would be left in tact, but this is based on the fact the houses are 3000sqft+ and thus there is no need to destroy perfectly good, elegant rooms. If a house was significantly smaller, this may change things if there were two pokey living rooms together, but I wouldn’t be certain.

While they say “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission”, I would do some more research if I were your friend and try to get permission from the start. Presumably the architect has good reason for doubting that permission would be granted, so I will be interested to hear from you what two rooms they are.

Thanks SoCoDu
The rooms in question are more of the pantry / kitchen variety
That is why she was so surprised at the architects caution
She was of the view therefore to just do it herself and ask forgiveness later
I felt it was a needless risk to take however her builder said they do this often?

A listed house I was considering purchasing had me laying awake wondering how I’d make it work if refused permission to open up the two (not too huge) reception rooms (as is standard in many period houses). I was thrown further by online information from conservation architects leading me to conclude that the planners would prefer that I don extra layers rather than insulate the place…

The house sold to someone else and 2 days later you could, from the street and through uncurtained front windows, see a gaping hole where the dividing wall between front and rear reception room used to be. Some folk worry less about planners than others it would seem…

Thanks York :slight_smile:

The builder has told her there are other houses (without naming names) on her road who have also done as much. He has said that he can do the works and put in whatever re-inforcement needed and then paint it up.

He has told her that the no-goes are:

  1. Changes to front facade
  2. Changes to front gates / railings
  3. Changes to windows (esp. front)
  4. Changes to major front rooms (although as per your example, he had told her people do knock walls here!)

Ask him will he put that in writing and have his insurance indemnify you in case of need :slight_smile:

The way I’ve come to see it is that it’s not really feasible for the planners to determine when the works took place - more certainly so when considering internal works such as opening up walls. Having lived in uber-regulated Holland for a number of years, I enjoy the fact that Ireland is more laissez-faire when it comes to the letter of the law. It has it’s downsides of course, oft-times we can be something of a banana republic, but I would prefer it this way to the other way any day.

Pull the curtains, disguise the internal rubble as external rubble (beware leaving stripey wallpaper in situ when demolishing, don’t let nosy neighbours in. Then get going with the sledges…

Thanks again york :slight_smile:

I’ve always been of the opinion that no planning is impossible to get when it comes to improving a house, within reason. Knocking down a house or further developing a garden/site may be another story, but that isn’t the question. You mention that this involves the less important rooms, which are probably devoid of any architectural merit of sorts and possibly even ruined by unsympathetic renovations in the 60’s and 70’s as is the case in many houses. This sort of work should most definitely be possible one way or another. If the architect is saying ‘no, this isn’t possible’ then the question to ask is ‘what is possible, then?’ I can honestly not think of the last instance I witnessed of a planning application being rejected based on internal modifications of ancillary rooms. Ireland’s planning system is very lax to say the least and pretty much anything is allowed, including extreme external modifications (which in many cases I am against- but anyway.) Most people will try not to alter the streetscape in a planning application (i.e. the front elevation, the railings, the gates, width of the house, etc.) but even very extreme changes to the facade and streetscape are accepted on the most protected streets of Dublin. Lissadell on Shrewsbury Road was recently given planning permission to completely change a house that most would consider to already be beautiful, involving the total change of the entire structure (including front and side visible from the street) and more than tripling the size of the house. They may have had to apply multiple times before getting planning permission, but they got it.

Importantly, it is very rare for neighbours to contest internal modifications as in general they welcome the precedent that is being set by the permission being granted. Once it is granted, it is reasonable that all other similar houses should be granted similar permission. I imagine your friend’s architect has already looked into every other similar house on the street, or even not in the street but of a similar layout and calibre, to see if anybody else has taken similar action. Usually if you want to do something, the chances are that somebody already has, or has tried to, assuming it is standard enough.

If she isn’t happy with the architect, simply get a second opinion from another architect. Maybe he’s too conservative - maybe he’s just plain lazy - who knows. If the house is currently an unloved, outdated kip, then her chances are even higher. The truth is that renovation a house gives it a new lease of life and usually improves the area’s visual amenity by cleaning it up and ensuring that people continue to live in it. You can put pretty much any argument on earth into a planning application - you can argue that the concept of a pantry is outdated, that the space is not used efficiently and that the new kitchen has significantly larger storage space of Xm3 compared to the original storage space provided by the kitchen and pantry combined and that therefore this is an improvement. It may seem stupid, but I’m just trying to demonstrate the fact that literally anything can be used. I’m not advising it, but I’m sure there are creative ways of making your application even more convincing… get a good photoshop artist to edit in some nice mold into the pictures of the pantry and claim that the merging of rooms would provide improved natural night and ventilation to what is currently a room that is both unusable and unsafe due to mold-related health risks… :angry:

Thanks SoCoDu :smiley: