We've been trying to buy a small stone/thatch cottage in South Co Galway by private sale, used as holiday cottage by the present owner since early 1990s. Before this the cottage was lived in continuously for over a century by the current neighbour's family.
Property was modernised and improved over the years, has mains water, ESB, a modern septic tank, and in fair state of order but it is rather basic and needs work. No previous extension to the original stone structure but some significant repairs that are not entirely up to current specs (roof timber spacing and a rather 'agricultural' section of non-cavity block walling). There seems to be no record of any planning application relating to the property (i.e. it's likely that there was no consent for the current septic tank).
We would like to buy it as a one-bedroom weekend cottage (i.e. to maintain, and not increase, its current level of usage and occupant capacity) but we would like to improve it by extending a lighter and more modern kitchen/diner at the rear (i.e. a single story, single pitch roof, extension of less that 40 sq meters extending from the rear wall that faces perpendicular away from the road line - although this is a gable wall, not necessarily the wall that has the 'back' door in it). We'd also like to let a bit more light into the old part of the cottage, with a larger and more 'architectural' window higher up the same rear gable wall, while not affecting any of the traditional character that's visible from the road. So, we might be looking for an archtect to help us maximise the possibilities of a small project.
Our problem is planning. There is currently about 280m2 of space between the rear line of the house and the rear plot boundary. About 130m2 of this is directly 'behind' the house, when looking from the road (i.e. so any extension would leave much more than the 25m2 of space in that area). No problem there.
If we could extend the kitchen then there would also be an opportunity (or requirement) to improve the existing sewerage arrangements at the same time (soil pipe may need to be re-routed anyway). However, it's a really small plot (about 0.15 acres?). The cottage is small (about 80 sq meters?) and located in the roadside corner of the plot, so there is more side and back space than you might imagine, in an L-shape around the house. But not a lot. Plenty of space from the point of view of a manageable garden for a weekend cottage but what about the sewerage?
There might be an option to purchase one of the small neighbouring plots in the future but it can't be guaranteed at the point of sale (different owner). Both are unused agricultural/waste land of about 600m2 each (and we can fairly safely say won't be built on)
Any advice on what we might reasonably expect to be allowed to do, as this affects our final decision to buy (no mortgage involved but we'd like to make it more saleable in the future and we'd like to do it properly if we can).
1. is there any reason why we can't continue with the established use of this property as a holiday cottage in its current state, without any further works? It's been like this for at least 12 years, maybe more, is anyone actually going to stop us flushing the toilet during the occasional long weekend if we don't change anything?
2. would a single story kitchen extension of less than 40m2 to the 'rear' gable wall count as an exempted development? If we applied for planning permission for it are we then forced to open Pandora's box about the septic tank?
3. could we improve the existing septic tank or replace it with a new alternative? (there is a vague possibility of a future mains sewer along the road one day, but not any time soon).
Any thoughts or useful experiences would be helpful...