new purchaser retention issue and how to move forward?

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    • #711237


      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…

    • #814615

      There are a lot of ifs, buts and maybes involved that need clarification. Clarity could only really be gained by either seeing the house and the site or by viewing an extensive set of site photos. For that reason, there would be no harm in calling an architect and asking them to drop out and offer an opinion on your proposal as part of an initial consultation. They would probably do so for a minimal fee or even for free if you intended to enlist their services for a design.
      It sounds like the septic tank is a source of worry and you are not convinced of it’s ability to serve the dwelling. Have a look here and call them to discuss alternatives.
      If the septic tank doesn’t have permission, then strictly speaking, it requires retention and a new tank needs permission.
      As regards the extension – you need to be absolutely certain which side of the house is the front and which is the back and that the wall of the extension isn’t higher than the wall of the house and there are no proposed dormer windows etc.etc. in order that it might be considered exempt development.

      In other words, consult an architect.

    • #814616

      thanks, you’re right, lots of ifs and buts :confused:

      However, we made some progress with a site visit. We ruled out the idea of exempted extension and established with our builder that we could do the kind of kitchen extension we want if we can get planning. We also had some very helpful pre-planning advice that ‘continued use as a residential property would be acceptable’ and our rough outline proposals for extension would be welcomed by the planning office (in principle at least).

      So the big issue is whether we would get permission for retention of the existing septic tanks and drainage, while we think about our options to improve in the future.

      For information, the cottage has been continuously habited for generations. The most recent drainage updates were done quite recently, circa 1998, but without any planning application.

      There is about 286m2 of space to the rear of the house (13m x 22m). There are two septic tanks, a grey water soak pit and drain field/percolation within this area. The tanks are about 30 feet from the cottage (9m+) in one back corner and the percolation in the other back corner, maybe 15m from the tanks and about the same from the cottage (we are trying to find out how it was constructed and how extensive it is). The neighbouring plots are agricultural or laid to waste so I suspect no-one ever raised any queries about it. Mains water, so there’s no issue about wells. Only a one bedroom cottage so minimum number of people, but I can’t see where you’d fit enough pipe trenches, far enough apart, to meet 2009 specs.

      There is a chance of buying one of the small neighbouring waste plots at some point, which would solve the problem of extending the percolation further away in the future but we can’t guarantee it at the point of sale on the cottage. So we have to buy it ‘as is’.

      We know that other sites in the area have passed the EPA test but does anyone think there is any chance of us actually being refused an application to retain what’s there now? Do these things ever get refused for a long-existing habited dwelling?

      PS. also happy to hear from any good architects interested in renovaton and extention to an old traditional cottage in the South Galway area.

    • #814617

      Slightly astonished no one has expressed an interest in the work, but then maybe they did it by PM.

      I would have though there were a lot of contributors here who would jump at the chance.


    • #814618

      apparently not… 😉

      we’d interested in someone who’d be happy working with our traditional restoration contractor/friend (who works in thatch/stone/timber/lime etc). At the moment we’re looking at timber frame ideas. It would involve tying and matching the new kitchen+attic extension into the old stone/thatch structure at the front, but with a more contemporary wood/glass approach at the back (maybe incorporating pv grid solar).

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