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Site Development Standards

Frequently asked questions about Site Development Standards.

What is the minimum site size?

Where wastewater treatment and disposal are by means of an individual onsite septic tank or a wastewater treatment plant, a minimum site size of 0.2hectares or 0.5 acres is required.

In designated settlements the minimum site size will depend on the density of the development, the provision of private amenity space, public open space and the layout of the development, etc. The relevant site development standards are set out in:

Chapter 13 of the Waterford City Development Plan 2013-2019

Chapter 10 of the Waterford County Development Plan 2011-2017

Chapter 10 of the Dungarvan Town Plan 2012-2018

The Appendices of the Lismore, Portlaw and Tramore Local Area Plans 2014-2020

What about the siting of a dwelling?

The Planning Authority will seek for new developments to comply with the following:

  • It blends sympathetically with landform.
  • It uses existing trees, buildings, slopes or other features to provide backdrop.
  • It uses an identifiable site with long established boundaries, which separate the site naturally from the surrounding ground.
  • It does not spoil any scenic aspect or detract from the visual appearance of the countryside.
  • Not acceptable when viewed from surrounding vantage points are the following:
  • It occupies a prominent, skyline or, top of slope/ridge location.
  • The site lacks existing long established boundaries or is unable to provide a suitable degree of enclosure for the building in the countryside.
  • In flat landscapes or exposed hill areas, where some degree of prominence may be unavoidable, care sitting using existing natural or manmade features can still ensure that new building does not appear to be out of place or unduly prominent.
  • In informing your decision you should have regard to the topography of the site, the natural screening available on site, the visibility of the site over a wider area and the existing house types in the area, in choosing a house type. Examination of the planning reports on previous applications on the same or adjacent sites to see if the house type/height was previously identified as an issue in the area may assist in informing your siting and design decisions. Previous planning applications in the area may be viewed here.

What about dwelling designs?

The most important and most neglected element of a house build is the design. An intelligent house design and site layout has less of an impact on the character of the landscape, will create a more attractive living space that is less expensive to heat, most likely less expensive to build and will ultimately be more valuable.

Waterford City & County Council welcomes innovative design, both contemporary and traditional, that is of architectural merit, and is accompanied by a detailed design justification. All new rural housing developments must have regard to the principles of traditional rural design. In addition consideration should always be given to the south facing aspect for solar gain and the direction of the prevailing wind. The main areas of glazing should be south facing with much reduced glazing on the north face. Taking full advantage of natural light to the living spaces should dictate the layout of the rooms.

What is traditional rural design in the context of County Waterford?

  • A simple rectangular narrow plan form, generally with full gables.
  • Low window to wall ratio, windows with vertical emphasis.
  • Strong well proportion appearance using quality local materials – slate roof, limestone cills, rendered and painted finish.

How can a modern house design be achieved having regard to traditional rural design principles?

Ensure good proportions in roof to wall ratio. Gable widths should therefore not exceed 8.5m, (recommended <6.5m for narrow plan form) with roof pitch ranging 35o to 42o.

Front gables/protrusions are not traditional and should be avoided. Add character to the front elevation with simple well proportioned protruding porch, natural stone cills, natural slate roof and high quality windows.

Front and prominent elevations should limit the number and size of windows. Windows should be fairly uniform, well proportioned with a vertical emphasis. If front or prominent elevations are south facing a larger area of glazing can be achieved by subdivision to elements with vertical emphasis (e.g. double glass door with equal side panels).

Larger houses in excess of 200m2 should be sub-divided into smaller elements of traditional form to reduce the bulk of the house.

Dormer and bay windows are not traditional features and should be used sparingly and to appropriate scale. These features may not be considered appropriate at prominent or scenic locations. Traditional storey and a half proposal with narrow plan form preferable to dormer style.

Chimneys should be located as close to the ridge as possible to minimize visual impact. Chimneys at gable end to be flush with gable.

The Planning Authority will require all planning applications for a single rural house to include a ‘Design Statement’ (except for outline permission applications). A ‘Design Statement’ is a short document which enables the applicant to explain why a particular design solution is considered the most suitable for a particular site. The statement will usually consist of both text and graphics, but is not intended to duplicate planning application documents. It may be of special value in explaining why the context requires an exceptional – rather than a conventional – design approach. The statement should address all relevant development plan or local area plan design policies and objectives, and relate them to the site. The design statement could outline a justification for the development as proposed and any alternative design options considered.

For worked examples of rural dwelling design please refer to Cork Rural Design Guidance.

What is a landscaping plan?

A landscaping plan is a proposal prepared by a qualified horticulturist to enhance the existing planting on site and to provide additional screening for the new development. The location, number and type of plant species and trees should be clearly indicated on a site layout map. The plan should have regard to existing indigenous species in the area, the ground conditions on site and the visual integration of the proposed development into the receiving landscape.

How do I take note of Hedgerow Protection/Replacement

To protect the integrity of hedgerows, the Council will require that where there is a break in a hedgerow to facilitate a new road entrance, connectivity is to be provided by the planting of new hedgerows to all remaining site boundaries. All new hedgerows should consist of a 1 metre high by 1 metre wide earthen embankment with native hedgerow species planted on top in a staggered pattern at minimum 5 plants per metre. The raised earthen embankment increases the viability of the newly planted hedge and may be created with excavated material from the site. Planting should be carried at the earliest stage of any development from late November to March immediately following the removal of existing hedgerow. The newly planted hedgerow should be kept free from weeds and grass and protected from grazing animals. A 1 metre setback from livestock is recommended. The hedgerow should be maintained at a minimum height of 2 metres and a minimum width of 1.5 metres over its lifetime to maximize its habitat value.

Where possible, the removal of roadside ditches and hedges should be avoided. Where there is no alternative and hedgerow removal is unavoidable to provide sightlines, the Council will require that the roadside boundary is replaced with a new hedgerow, formed from indigenous species. Replacement of natural hedgerow boundaries by ornamental shrub planting is discouraged as it suburbanises what was a rural area and exposes new development to loss of natural screening and also causes loss of biodiversity.

To adhere to the provisions of the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000, hedge cutting shall not be carried out during the bird nesting season from March 1st to August 31st.

Road Issues – What are the sightlines?

Sightlines are the lines of vision available from a proposed or existing entrance onto the public road. For single houses, clear and unobstructed sightlines must generally be provided from a point 2.4 metres (i.e. X distance) back from the road edge, to a point on the near side of the road in both directions. For housing estates and commercial developments, a setback of 4.5 metres may be required. Generally sightlines of 55 metres are required for local roads, 160 metres for Regional Roads and 215 metres for National Roads (i.e. Y distance).

Sightlines should allow for similar inter-visibility between vehicles entering or approaching the site and other vehicles on the road. Should it be necessary to modify roadside boundaries outside of the designated site area, a letter of agreement in this regard will be required from the relevant landowner. The appropriate eye (1.05 metres and 2.0 metres) and object heights of 0.26 metres and 2.0 metres respectively, above the road surface, shall be used.

It should be noted that there are restrictions on the creation of new entrances onto National Roads and Regional Roads set out in the relevant Plan for the area.

Are there restrictions on development on National Roads?

To protect the safety and carrying capacity of National routes, it is the policy of the Council to actively discourage the location of dwellings in these locations, in accordance with Government policy as outlined by the National Roads Authority.

The Council is aware of the requirements for flexibility in this regard; especially with respect to persons who have a particular need to reside in an area adjoining a National Route. For this reason no new development, which would require a direct access onto a National Route in a rural area shall be permitted except where the developer is the owner of a landholding of a minimum extent of 15 acres, which existed as a separate entity at the time of the adoption of the 1999 County Development Plan (12/07/99) desiring to build a residence for himself/herself or a member of his/her immediate family where there are no alternative sites available. Where, through the operation of the above restrictions, or through the availability of access onto a side road, development adjacent to the National Route is permitted, it will be required to conform to a minimum building line of 40 meters from the public road boundary fence.

Are there restrictions on development on Regional Roads?

To maintain the safety and carrying capacity of these roads, no new development, which would require direct access onto a regional route in a rural area, will be permitted except where:

The applicant has a minimum landholding of 15 acres which was purchased prior to the adoption of the 2005 County Development Plan and there are no alternative suitable sites within the landholding which have an access onto a local road.

A person that the Planning Authority is satisfied is engaged in full time farming and has a landholding not greater than 15 acres but has land leased prior to the adoption of the 2005 County Development Plan, in excess of 100 acres, that is adjoining or in close proximity to his/her landholding. The applicant shall have to satisfy the Planning Authority, with relevant documentary evidence, that the land has been continuously leased since the adoption of the 2005 Waterford County Development Plan.

How far back from the public road should the dwelling be located?

For setback requirements in urban areas please refer to Chapter 13 of the Waterford City Development Plan 2013-2019 (include hyperlink here) and Chapter 10 of the Waterford County Development Plan 2011-2017.

Generally, in rural areas, a dwelling should be set back a minimum of 18 metres from the roadside fence on local roads, 25 metres on Regional roads (except the Tramore/Waterford Road where the minimum setback is 30 metres) and 40 metres on National Roads.

It should be noted that there are restrictions on the creation of new entrances onto National Roads and Regional Roads.

Do I have to submit a 'Site Suitability Assessment' for on-site Wastewater Treatment Systems with my Planning Application?

Where a planning application involves a proposal to use a septic tank or other on-site wastewater treatment system, a site assessment is required. The site assessments are carried out by private operators. The assessment must be carried out in accordance with the EPA Code of Practice.

A planning application will not be validated if the assessment results are not available at the time of making the application. The trial holes and percolation holes must be available for inspection by a Planning Officer within the first 8 weeks of submitting the planning application. The holes should be appropriately covered and fenced off for public safety, whilst also allowing for ease of inspection by the Planning Officer.

The EPA Site Characterisation Form is available for download here.

What is a Genuine Local Housing Need?

The Council is committed to the maintenance and growth of strong rural communities living in rural villages and in the open countryside. In meeting this commitment, the Council recognises the need to permit the development of rural housing in suitable locations, on a scale and pace, which will not diminish County Waterford’s high quality rural environment. Therefore the rural housing policy must find a balance between reinforcing and strengthening rural communities whilst protecting the rural environment from over-development. To achieve this balance, in accordance with the National Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines, a Genuine Local Housing Need must be demonstrated by persons seeking to build a house in areas of the County that are said to be “Areas Under Urban Pressure” or “Stronger Rural Areas”. This need is a clear intrinsic link to the rural area in which the application is made.

Do I need to demonstrate a Genuine Local Housing Need?

If you are applying for planning permission for a dwelling in an unzoned rural area, you may need to demonstrate that you have a Genuine Local Housing Need. The County has been classified into the following 3 Rural Area Types in the County Development Plan 2011-2017.

  1. Areas under Urban Pressure
  2. Stronger Rural Areas
  3. Structurally Weak Rural Areas

A map indicating the location of these areas can be seen by clicking on the following link:

Rural Area Types Map

A more detailed version of this map is available in the Map Based Search at the following link:

Online Planning Enquiries

Applicants in “Areas Under Urban Pressure” and “Stronger Rural Areas” will be required to demonstrate a Genuine Local Housing Need. Applicants in Structurally Weak Rural Areas are generally not required to show that they have a genuine housing need in the area.

Do I satisfy the Genuine Local Housing Need criteria?

To be considered for a house in an “Area Under Urban Pressure” or in a “Stronger Rural Area” an applicant for planning permission must be able to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the Planning Authority, that he/she can comply with one of the following criteria:

  • A landowner who owned the property prior to 4th March 2004 wishing to build a permanent home for his/her own use
  • A farm owner or an immediate family member (son, daughter, mother, father, sister, brother, heir) wishing to build a permanent home for their own use on family lands
  • A favoured niece, nephew or heir (maximum of 2 persons per farm owner) of a farm owner with no children wishing to build a permanent home for their own use on family lands
  • Persons working fulltime or part-time on a permanent basis, in a specific rural area who by the nature of the work need to be close to the workplace
  • A son or daughter of an established householder (who has lived in the area for three years or more) wishing to build a permanent home for their own use to live immediately adjacent to their elderly parents to provide care
  • Persons who were born and lived for substantial parts of their lives (three years or more) in a specific rural area, who then moved away and who now wish to return to their home places to reside near other family members, to work locally, to care for elderly family members or to retire
  • Persons who because of exceptional health circumstances – supported by relevant documentation from a registered medical practitioner and a disability organisation may require to live in a particular rural area or close to family support (or vice versa).

Please note that for all rural housing applications the technical suitability of the site with regard to sightlines, wastewater treatment and disposal, site size, etc must still be met.

A Supplementary Rural Housing Planning Application Form must be submitted with all applications for rural housing (i.e. including Structurally Weak Areas).

What is defined as the Local Area?

The Local Area is defined as the area within which it can reasonable to assume that the applicant’s connection extends from the source of the specified need (whether that is the family home, rural workplace, etc). For the purposes of the implementation of the Genuine Local Housing Need Criteria, the local area is defined as being within 10 kilometres of that source (as the crow flies), provided that a higher order zoned settlement (Primary Service Centre, Secondary Service Centre and District Service Centre), that has the infrastructural capacity to accommodate a dwelling is not located between the source of the specified need and the proposed site.

What is an Occupancy Condition?

With the exception of replacement dwelling planning applications, the Planning Authority will apply an occupancy condition to a grant of permission for a dwelling or dwellings. This restricts the occupancy of the dwelling for a specific period to the applicant. This typically is for 7 years after the first occupancy of the dwelling.

The applicant would be required to enter into a legal agreement with the Planning Authority under Section 47 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended). Templates for the agreement can be obtained from the Planning Office on request.

If my application is refused, what are my options?

If your application is refused you can appeal this decision to An Bord Pleanála with the payment of a prescribed fee. Information is also available on An Bord Pleanála’s website.

Finally, the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government also prepared an appeals information leaflet “PL10 – Making a Planning Appeal”.

Can I build paths, ponds and patios?

Paths, ponds and patios within the curtilage of a house are exempt from planning permission subject to the level of the ground not being altered by more than 1 metre above or below the level of the adjoining ground.