The Shoebox Protocol



Environment Minister Alan Kelly

Was the introduction of new apartment size guidelines in breach of EU law?

Grab a crying chair.

Bonkers writes:

Back in December [Environment Minister] Alan Kelly did the bidding for Tom Parlon, former PD Minister and now head of the Construction Industry Federation, i.e along with IBEC one of the property developers lobby groups.

Kelly rammed through guidelines for even smaller shoebox apartments than we already have.

Apart from allowing 40sqm apartments (which is well below average sizes on the continent with perhaps the exception of Paris and French ski resorts) he also abolished the rule that apartments must be dual aspect.

Under the new guidelines new units can be single aspect only which means some poor suckers are going to end up with only north facing windows and a complete lack of natural light.

Then the architects came out and said his minimum sizes weren’t actually workable because you need corridors of a specific width for fire safety purposes.

So it seems that neither the CIF or Kellys Dept of Environment ever bothered to ask architects or engineers to come up with a minimum size that meets fire regulations. They just steamed ahead.

So recently I found out about a little-known piece of EU legislation called the Aarhus Convention.

This says that EU members cannot make major changes to environment policy (of which housing is a key heading) without first putting the plans out to public consultation.

Now I might be wrong on this but I’ve searched everywhere online for the public consultation on Kelly’s plans and I can’t find it anywhere.

I have emailed the Dept of Environment twice now to ask them and haven’t even received a ‘We’ll get back to you’ email in return which is making me suspicious that Kelly rushed this through  in December when he knew Labour were likely to sustain big losses in the election.

I think this might be one for Legal Coffee Drinker to investigate. If there was no public consultation on permitting Irish apartments becoming children’s shoe boxes then AK47 has pulled a massive stroke here and is in breach of EU law.

Also I noticed members of the public who report compliance issues to the Aarhus Compliance Committee *might* get summoned to Brussels to present their case, all flights and hotel paid. Time for the Broadsheet commentariat to sample those 7% beers maybe?!




51 thoughts on “The Shoebox Protocol

  1. Disasta

    Is there a redeemable side to this Kelly lads character or is he just a dislikeable fellow through and through?

  2. fmong

    It’s become pretty clear that the modular housing and this were ill thought out and little more then expensive photo ops for Alan to walk around ‘inspecting things’ and looking like a great fella you’d vote for in the upcoming election.. Now that the dust has settled it’s clear that neither of these projects will be of any aid to the thousands of people being crushed by the current housing crisis

    course Alan doesn’t give a fupp now!

  3. Rob_G

    “Under the new guidelines new units can be single aspect only which means some poor suckers are going to end up with only north facing windows and a complete lack of natural light.”

    – and these will likely be much cheaper as a consequence. What would the author think is worse: being homeless, or living somewhere that is a little dark? Banning bedsits in the first place was madness; in one fell swoop, the Govt took thousands of properties out of the lower end of the market, pushing up prices for everyone.

    1. donal

      This should not be a choice between homelessness and living in luxury. There is plenty of scope to build decent and affordable apartments and houses in this country.
      There is a social need for housing of all types to be built, and there is a social need for the housing that is built to have minimum standards.
      In my opinion the previous government bent over backwards to placate the developers and hid behind the mythical levels of constitutional protection of property rights to allow smaller and less desirable homes be built. Doing so delayed construction of needed units as plans were re-drawn and planning applications re-submitted. If the suspected breach of EU regs is true, and results in revised guidelines at some point in the future, that will be a further delay in getting units built.
      What a fupp up that in time of crisis the government, and particulary the minister, may be responsible for two major delays to getting things started without trying to actually deal with the many other issues that are causing the housing crisis.
      Supreme incompetence me thinks

    2. ahjayzis

      Solely north facing homes cost more to heat and light, they’re more prone to damp, not to mention bloody depressing for the occupant’s mental wellbeing.

      These aren’t prefabs we’re talking about – cut corners in construction and you’re stuck with the result for decades, the long haul. A massive amount of our carbon emissions come from the built environment. Building sensitively doesn’t cost any extra, it just needs more imagination.

    3. Declan

      Alan Kelly is a bit of a pox bottle and developers will squeeze every rule to fit an extra single bed apartment but single aspect isn’t the worst thing in the world.

      Surely we should be made re concerned with sizes for the apartment and the quality of services supporting it

      1. ahjayzis

        Hire a decent architect and you don’t *need* runt of the litter apartment types in a development.

        It doesn’t cost the world to build proper homes that’ll stand the test of time, perform sustainability and be comfortable to live in.

        Just because they’re for poor people doesn’t mean we need to go out of our way to make them miserable. No daylight is MISERABLE.

        Even a compromise where we allow single-aspect units, just not solely northern-aspect?

        1. donal

          I doubt too many would complain if:
          south-facing single aspect allowed,
          north-facing single aspect banned,
          east and west facing single aspect allowed in numbers limited by % of overall apartments in a development (or some such rule)

          The above provided the many other issues re size etc were dealt with

    4. Aidan O Boyle

      Spoken like a landlord,banning bedsits was long overdue,obviously you never had the dubious pleasure of living in one.

  4. Tish Mahorey

    “What would the author think is worse: being homeless, or living somewhere that is a little dark?”

    I don’t think this has anything to do with homelessness. Most homeless were renters, not buyers.

    “Banning bedsits in the first place was madness”

    Very true. This was a ploy to push people into new developments at higher rents and causes a great deal of stress and hardship for older people who very happily lived in bedsits for years.

  5. Caroline

    Hmm, could be a bit of a reach (ahaha little lawyer joke there). Aarhus I think is more about large-scale industrial effects on the environment, specific builds that generally require an EIS: think mining, energy and chemical production or just have a look at Annex I. Not sure how you would apply it to housing policy as opposed to a specific build.

    1. delacaravanio

      Yeah, I don’t buy that Aarhus is relevant here either. Kelly might be a poo, but as a country we need to stop getting Europe to save us from ourselves.

      1. Illuminati16

        Having European directives in place is the reason many of our most important nature conservation sites are still in tact

    2. My Meaty Member

      The way it was explained to me it is almost impossible to prove in an EIA there will be no or minimal impact on the environment from a development , hence if you want to strategically object you invoke that Aarhus convention and force delays to the development process.

  6. kiora

    Would be good to follow this up. Personally I cant live in another basement flat and also maintain my sanity.

  7. Reppy

    The “modular” houses they’re building are ironically not even modular. Sums up the whole farce

  8. Eoin

    I do worry about Alan Kellys soul. That is assuming he has a soul and he’s not some Irish public shafting machine manufactured by lobbyists?

    1. donal

      Dual aspect was a rule brought in by Dublin City Council in recent years, AK overruled them .
      There was no rule when many apartments were built prior to 2009/10/11 (I’m not sure when the rule was brought in)

  9. Kieran NYC

    I see the revisionists are out trying to rewrite history saying bedsits were fine instead of the depressing cold, damp inhuman hovels they almost always were.

    1. My Meaty Member

      You will get that. It’s part of the ingrained peasant mentality last seen when angelus bells were tolling.

    2. Aidan O Boyle

      In this instance I suspect many of the revisionists are disgruntled landlords nostalgics for the good old days when they could get away with murder.

  10. john

    great to see Tom Parlon getting called out. It amazes me that such a vested interest is continually asked his opinion in the news on Tv and in the paper.

  11. Clampers Outside!

    Alan Jelly is just another fool with Ill thought out, and not thought out at all quick fix “solutions”.
    He’s more interested in being seen to be doing something (ie throwing his weight / ‘power’ aound) rather than finding long term solutions.

    He’s a complete power hungry eejit only capable of a knee jerk response, nothing more

  12. Facts

    Ahem. This is not an EU rule. The Aarhus convention was agreed at a meeting of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), which is headquartered in Geneva.

      1. My Meaty Member

        It has been cited in precedent cases though I do agree with some that it may not be applicable here

        1. Deluded

          Lash away… I’m always happy to be put right. (I will admit, I was impressed by the veracious* username)

          *word of the day… it was on one of the threads here

          1. My Meaty Member

            Well a Directive is European law is I think what Caroline is saying. It’s legally binding in this country and can be cited in relevant cases.

  13. TSS

    The public participation elements of the Arhus Convention (a UN Convention) were brought into European Union law by the, er, Public Participation Directive, 2003/35/EC. (
    This applies to the drawing up of ‘plans and programmes’ relating to the environment. While it has been brought into Irish law under various planning SIs for things like EIA and SEA, the problem here, as Caroline mentions, is that the policy is not a ‘plan or programme’ under European or Irish law. Plans and programmes are things like development plans, waste management plans or particular plans for a project. In research I’ve done elsewhere, policies (unless reacting to a legal obligation from the EU) are pretty much insulated from the consultation/information requirements of EU Environmental law. So, though I haven’t researched this element in particular, I doubt very much that Arhus criteria of consultation would apply to a ministerial housing policy.

Comments are closed.