Developing your plot – granny flats and new-builds in the garden

7th June 2019
By Aisling Rusk (Director), as featured in the Irish News May 2019

As urban living gains in popularity, more and more people are finding ways to build or develop within their area. Many report a shortage of available properties suitable to grow old in, and find good sites hard to come by and expensive. But you could be surprised at what’s possible in the space right under your nose, with a bit of creative thinking applied.

The Granny Flat – intergenerational living is gaining in popularity again. This is the least onerous, cheapest way to obtain planning permission for more accommodation on your site, but there are restrictions. These annexes have to be connected to the main house, sharing facilities, and are not supposed to have separate kitchens. Our clients in Omagh are planning to accommodate their octogenarian parents in a new annex with blackened timber, concrete, glass and a mono-pitch roof to resemble sophisticated out-buildings. Connected by a glazed link to the main house through a shared store and utility room, this will facilitate a symbiotic care arrangement, where grandparents can babysit grandkids and grandparents can be supported yet independent as they age.

Convert out-buildings – sometimes existing out-buildings can be repurposed. We recently gained planning permission to transform and extend the beautiful former coach house of our North Belfast clients Victorian villa into a two-bedroom separate property, sharing the existing property.

New build – aesthetically these can be styled to reflect the original or surrounding houses, or can have an auxiliary, shed like appearance, with timber or metal cladding, corrugated sheets and concrete that is currently very fashionable. That is what we designed for clients in Ballyhackamore who are down-sizing from their large family and seeking a site nearby. We showed them how they could subdivide their garden and build a compact, low-energy, blackened timber house with separate access, soon to commence on-site.

Subdivide – spitting your house into two or more apartments/individual units, can also work well for the right property. It is however, worth noting that individual units must be compartmentalised for acoustics and fire safety, an HMO license may be required, and staircases may need to be replaced to meet the current building regulations, taking up significantly more space.

Access and car parking are key – both the new and existing properties will need to have sufficient car parking spaces, calculated based on the number of bedrooms. Whether you plan to use the same driveway or create a separate access, this will need to meet the current standards, with safe visibility splays in both directions. You can access the relevant guidance at or your architect can advise.

If you would like to explore any of the above ideas, why not arrange for an architect to visit your house and explore its potential with you? More information can be found at and