The chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage is proposing a change to planning law that would allow people to install covered bike storage in their front gardens, if it meets certain guidelines, without planning permission, he said Monday.
Wicklow Green Party TD Steven Matthews said by phone on Monday that he was introducing a private member bill to make the change, but that he wasn’t even sure that legislation was needed. IrishCycle.com reported on his plan on Saturday.
It might be possible for the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O’Brien, to simply change the relevant planning regulations, Matthews said on Monday.
O’Brien’s office has not responded to a query sent Monday as to whether he’d support making this change. Neither have the press offices of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the two parties in the governing coalition with Matthews’ Greens.
In April, councillors on Dublin City Council’s planning committee voted in favour of a motion from Green Party Councillor Donna Cooney to write to O’Brien, to see if the government would change the law.
At the planning committee on Tuesday, Cooney asked whether the chair, Fine Gael Councillor Ray McAdam, had gotten any response. The letter was acknowledged, said McAdam. But they didn’t get a substantive response so he would follow up, he said.
In May, a spokesperson for the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage said that “whilst planning legislation is kept under constant review, there are currently no proposals to amend the legislation as suggested”
What’s the right size?
“My proposal is to amend the planning regulations and to amend them in a way that makes it exempt from the requirement for planning permission to construct a structure to the front of the property that will be solely for the use for the storage of bicycles, ebikes, escooters, etc.,” Matthews said.
To be exempt from planning permission, bike storage would have to be smaller than a certain size, and not be out of character with the neighbourhood, Matthews said.
If someone wanted a bigger structure, they could apply for planning permission, he said. If a neighbour thought a structure was out of character with the area, they could complain to the local authority, he said.
Matthews said isn’t sure yet what the size restrictions should be exactly. “I’m not completely committed to the dimensions yet at the moment.”
He said he’d been looking at the issue because his two kids have bikes, he has a bike, his wife has a bike. “I’d love to put in one of these like [bike] bunkers and know that I was complying to planning laws and know that it was convenient and easy,” he said.
The covered bike storage would keep the bikes dry and secure, he said. And “you use the bike more often if you could just lift up the lid there and unhook the bike and away you go”.
Dublin City Council has brought enforcement actions against at least two people for installing bike storage in their front gardens.
Deputy City Planning Officer Deirdre Scully said at an April meeting of the council’s planning committee, that the regulations are strict on what can go in front of a house.
“Which doesn’t give us a lot of scope in interpretation of the regulations,” she said.
Allowing front-garden bike lockers would require changes to national planning law, Scully said.
She suggested the committee write to the minister to suggest a change, if it wanted one.
The committee backed a motion from Green Party Councillor Donna Cooney to support front-garden bike storage, and decided to write to the minister to that effect.