DCAN 8: Housing in Existing Urban Areas
Conversion/Extension of Houses
5.8 In considering proposals for the conversion of houses into apartments the Department will need to be satisfied both that the individual dwellings are appropriate for conversion; and that the conversion provides good quality accommodation, respecting the character of the area and the amenity of the residents. While offering a sustainable option, the conversion of large houses can have a negative impact on the local character, the amount of amenity space, and on the privacy of adjoining residents, as a result of increased density, overlooking, and the need for additional car parking.
5.9 In terms of the design, all main living rooms and bedrooms should enjoy natural light and a pleasant outlook, although internal ’core’ kitchens and bathrooms can be acceptable subject to suitable mechanical ventilation. Proposals must also demonstrate satisfactory arrangements for access.
5.10 The conversion of houses into apartments can result in an increased demand for car parking, especially where apartments are occupied by households with a high level of car ownership. The arrangement of this parking provision is a crucial factor in securing the success of any conversion scheme. A number of objectives need to be reconciled.
These include the need:
- to provide sufficient parking to meet the needs of residents and visitors;
- to ensure that parking spaces are safe and conveniently located for users, and if possible within view of residents in order to benefi t from natural surveillance. It is also important that landscaping should not limit natural surveillance;
- to ensure that the impact of car parking provision on the street scene is kept to a minimum and that parking areas are well landscaped and screened;
- to ensure where car parking is located to the rear of a proposed development, it does not result in an unacceptable reduction in residential amenity as a result of noise and increased activity; and
- to acknowledge that a situation could be eventually reached where there is no remaining on-street parking.
5.11 These objectives need to be considered together in relation to each conversion project.
5.12 The options for accommodating parking will include on plot (either to the front or rear of the property) on-street, or some combination of these options. The optimum solution will depend on the dimensions of the plot (particularly in relation to front of plot provision), the presence of mature trees, which should be retained, and the capacity of the street to accommodate on-street car parking.
5.13 Where parking is to be provided off-street within the front garden of a dwelling, careful consideration must be given to the retention of mature and semi-mature trees (these will need space to gain maturity), and the use of planting and walls or fences to screen the parking areas. Care should also be taken to ensure that screen landscaping does not limit natural surveillance.
5.14 The loss of signifi cant vegetation to accommodate car parking will make a proposal unacceptable, as it can signifi cantly diminish environmental quality.
5.15 Dwellings with smaller frontage areas provide the greatest challenge. In such cases, there is a real danger of replacing the front garden with a harsh car parking area, which is highly damaging to the integrity of the street. Proposals, which would result in the loss of established boundary treatments and the creation of extended areas of hardstanding will not be acceptable.
5.16 In appropriate circumstances, on-street parking provision can provide a solution in maintaining the integrity of the street and in providing parking which is fl exible in terms of meeting changing resident and visitor demands. However, the potential for on-street parking will depend on the dimensions of the street, the availability of surplus street capacity and road safety considerations.
5.17 In considering applications for conversion and extension of large houses the Department will need to be satisfi ed that any extension will:
- harmonise with the existing dwelling in scale, style and the use of materials;
- not be detrimental to the amenities of adjoining properties, particularly in terms of privacy and their right to light;
- not overdevelop the site in terms of mass or density, as this can contribute to the loss of character of existing residences;
- retain an acceptable proportion of amenity space to the built form.
5.18 Where proposals include the conversion of the loft space, careful design is needed to ensure that the introduction of dormer windows or mansards does not introduce a discordant and intrusive element into the street scene and roofscape. In general neither dormers nor mansards should be introduced to the front of properties, unless there is an established tradition of such features in the street.