Written Answers. - Architectural Heritage.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

837 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage Gaeltacht and the Islands if, in view of recent meetings with community activists in Celbridge, County Kildare, she has now revised the proposals for the treatment of Castletown Gates, Celbridge; her new proposals, if any; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19769/00]

The ornate entrance gates and piers to Castletown House have already been damaged and are under considerable threat of further damage, primarily from large vehicles.

Consequently, my Department proposed: that the original ornate gates and piers be moved back a short distance along the avenue; that a new wider entrance be provided where the gates are now located, the design of which would be in keeping with the existing entrance; and that improvements be undertaken to the whole area inside the existing gates.

These proposals were designed to reduce the risk to the existing gates, to provide greatly enhanced, and much safer, access to Castletown House and to the housing estate in the grounds, and in so doing to maintain the relationship between the entrance, the gate lodges, and the Main Street of Celbridge.
Local opinion is, however, divided. Celbridge Chamber of Commerce had indicated its support for these proposals, as has the Castletown Foundation. However, on 16 August 2000, officials of my Department and of the Office of Public Works met some local community representatives, who expressed their opposition to what is proposed.
These proposals are the result of a serious effort by my Department to find a reasonable and appropriate solution to the problems that now arise with the entrance and as of now it is not clear if feasible alternatives exist. For example, my Department could accept the retention of the gates in their current position, subject to access through them being restricted to cars only. However, this has real implications for refuse vehicles, fire service vehicles, ambulances, tour buses, etc., and the agreement of the relevant services would be required.
However, if the Deputy or the relevant community representatives have any alternative workable suggestions that would effectively deal with the existing problems at Castletown gates, I will have them carefully examined. All material changes to the entrance area will of course require planning permission.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

838 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage Gaeltacht and the Islands the current position regarding repairs to Ballybunion Castle, County Kerry, following the external damage caused by lightning in December, 1999. [19896/00]

An architect and a structural engineer from my Department inspected this site in early September, at the request of Kerry County Council. Prior to the inspection, the county council had erected scaffolding to facilitate examination of the lightning damage. The damage is more extensive than had been thought previously and the structure is in a dangerous condition.

Repair of the lightning damage would require substantial works involving erecting suitable scaffolding, detailed recording of the damaged section followed by careful removal and reconstruction of the damaged sections of stonework.

The costs involved in the repair work are likely to be significant but would need to be estimated beforehand by a competent quantity surveyor. My officials are prepared to offer advice to Kerry County Council in drawing up a cost plan and are maintaining contact with them in this regard. Pending clarification of the costs involved it is not possible to say what repair works can be carried out.

Finally, public safety remains a primary concern. Additional barriers and warning signs need to be erected by the county council as well as a lightning conductor to prevent any further damage by lightning strikes.

Ownership of the property had been unclear but I understand that Kerry County Council is, in fact, the owner. As such, the cost of repairs would have to be borne by the council. As I stated previously in my reply to the Deputy's Question No. 317 of 30 Bealtaine 2000, it would be possible to have the structure listed in the Heritage Council's buildings at risk register which could lead to grant assistance from that body. The Heritage Council is an independent body in this regard.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

839 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage Gaeltacht and the Islands the reason her Department is holding up the necessary work for the realignment and building of the new Bond Bridge at Maynooth by Kildare County Council; if her attention has been drawn to the serious danger to pedestrians and motorists at the existing bridge; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19898/00]

I can assure the Deputy that my Department is not holding up the work at Bond Bridge. There are two bridges in question in this case and they are of architectural significance. Although Kildare County Council approved a scheme to realign the bridges, it did subsequently accept that the heritage considerations had to receive further attention. My Department subsequently received a revised scheme from the county council on 25 September. Although it is a much improved proposal, which retains substantial amounts of the heritage fabric, my Department has since communicated with Kildare County Council suggesting further improvements which will meet the heritage requirements and allow the realignment to take place.