Designing your dream home involves three key aspects – your lifestyle, your site location and Donegal County Council’s planning regulations.


First of all, you need a home that suits your needs and the way you live your life – not only now but into the future, 10, 20 or 40 years down the line. You also need to factor in the site type – getting the orientation right to maximise its potential in terms of views, light and use of the space. This third aspect is vitally important because if you get it wrong you’ll have to go back to the drawing board altogether and that’s being granted planning permission.


The first thing I’ll do when someone asks me to build them a home is go and visit the site. The orientation is very important.

I will look at the views and the sunlight on the site, the objective is to always try and marry the two.


Next, it is important that I get a full understanding of what the home builder needs in a home. This will involve discussions with them on their ideas for the home – the overall design, what the rooms will be like, how they see themselves living in the property, what their key needs are from the home and more.


The next step is to make sure we come up a design that not only meets the needs of the home builder but one which will get a green light from planners.


Getting through the planning process in Donegal can be quite difficult. In particular the family ties regulation (Section 47) is an obstacle which many people have fallen foul of in recent years.


For this reason, when I first meet someone planning to build a new home, I will always ask very personal questions: Who are you and where are you from? Can you comply with the rural housing policy for that area, more specifically can you comply with section 47, which states that in certain areas you must have direct family ties before you can gain planning permission?


Recently, someone came to me who failed to get over this first hurdle. However, that person decided to continue with the building process, having received some bad advice and was left in a predicament. This is one of many hurdles that face home builders when trying to achieve planning permission in Donegal.


Pre-planning is very important and you should always speak to the planner before you do anything. Planners will be more than happy to tell you what you need to know.


It is also important to trust a professional, like an architect, who will always give you up to date and correct advice.


Bill Steele is a Partner at Cullinane Steele Architects, Letterkenny.