An Bord Pleanála refuses permission for demolition on sustainability and climate grounds

David Healy, Green Party Councillor for Howth/Malahide on Fingal County Council, has welcomed the recent decision of An Bord Pleanála on a planning appeal for the demolition and replacement of a habitable house in Howth. 

Fingal’s new Development Plan 2023-2029 has strong policies in relation to demolition, including an objective to “support the retrofitting and reuse of existing buildings rather than their demolition and reconstruction where possible.” Similar objectives were in previous plans but had not really had much effect in practice. However in the new plan, the objective is supported by a specific requirement which reads:

” Where demolition is proposed, the applicant must submit a demolition justification report to set out the rationale for the demolition having regard to the embodied carbon of existing structures as well as the additional use of resources and energy arising from new construction relative to the reuse of existing structures.”

This requirement resulted from a Green Party motion in the Development Plan process. 

The Board’s decision to refuse permission includes the following reason:

“1. Having regard to the architectural merit of the existing building, its current condition and the contribution it makes to this section of Carrickbrack Road which has a unique and identifiable streetscape character, it is considered that the proposed development is contrary to Objective SPQHO44 of the Fingal County Development Plan, 2023-2029 which seeks to ‘…encourage the retention and retrofitting of structurally sound, habitable dwellings in good condition as opposed to demolition and replacement and will also encourage the retention of existing houses, such as cottages, that, while not Protected Structures or located within an ACA, do have their own merit and/or contribute beneficially to the area in terms of visual amenity, character or accommodation type’. In the absence of a demolition justification report (as required by Section 14.21.1 (Re-use of existing buildings) of the Plan), the proposed development is also considered to be contrary to Objective DMSO256 (Retrofitting and Re-Use of Existing Buildings) which seeks to ‘Support the retrofitting and reuse of existing buildings rather than their demolition and reconstruction where possible. The proposed development would therefore be contrary to the proper  planning and sustainable development of the area.”

Commenting on the decision, Cllr. Healy said:

“I strongly welcome this decision by An Bord Pleanála. From a climate point of view, we must ensure that we use, reuse and renovate our existing building stock. The planet cannot sustain an approach to emissions and resource use where functional buildings are demolished and replaced by new constructions unless it’s environmentally justified. The Irish Green Building Council estimates that 14% of Ireland’s carbon emissions are from the construction of buildings, including the production and transport of materials. As we expand our building stock to address the housing crisis, we are challenged to consider the embodied carbon of construction, to pick low and zero carbon options, and building materials which lock carbon away. Most of all we must make wise use of the buildings we already have. As Carl Elefante said, ‘the greenest building is one that is already built.’

“In this context it is particularly important that Fingal’s Development Plan requires planning applications to justify demolition having regard to the embodied carbon in the building and the resource and energy implications of new construction. An Bord Pleanála’s implementation of that policy is very welcome. 

“I also welcome the Inspector’s comment in relation to the Climate Action Plan: “I have also had regard to the recently adopted Climate Action Plan which highlights that buildings represent a significant resource of ‘sunk’ or embodied carbon and their retention and reuse will be critical to avoiding unnecessary emissions associated with demolition and replacement.”

“I hope that this is a signal that the Board will take a similar approach in relation to appeals from other local authorities even where the same provisions as regards demolition might not be present in the relevant Development Plan.”

ABP decision on Camelot, 43, Carrickbrack Road, Howth:

Reference for 14% statistic:

Climate Action Plan 2023 text on demolition referred to in Inspector’s report (p.173):

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *