Written Answers. - Protected Properties.

Michael Ring

Question:

326 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if he will recommend that local authority officials, in the spirit of co-operation with the owners of protected properties as set out in the Planning Act 2000, engage them and their representatives in a dialogue designed to elicit trust and co-operation on both sides now and into the future. [3887/03]

Michael Ring

Question:

327 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if there are circumstances where a local authority can assist in ensuring that a protected property does not become endangered, for example, elderly people living in a thatched cottage that requires re-roofing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3889/03]

Michael Ring

Question:

328 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government the assistance the Government will give to an owner of a protected house who is unable to insure his or her building. [3891/03]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 326 to 328, inclusive, together.

The Planning and Development Act 2000 seeks to balance the rights of owners and occupiers of protected structures with the overall obligation to protect and conserve the country's architectural heritage. I am very conscious that the co-operation and support of the owners and occupiers of protected structures, as well as public awareness and appreciation of our heritage, will be critical to ensure that this heritage is passed on to future generations. Draft guidelines for planning auth orities on architectural heritage protection, published in December 2001, note that the best method of conserving historic buildings is to keep them in active use. It is recognised that a degree of compromise will be required in adapting a protected structure to meet the requirements of modern living, while seeking to minimise the impact of adaptations on the fabric of the structure. The final guidelines are now nearing completion in my Department. They will reinforce the recommendation for a practical approach to the protection of the architectural heritage.
Local authorities have extensive powers under Part IV to assist the owners and occupiers of protected structures in conserving heritage properties, including through the provision of financial help or by doing necessary works itself. Planning authorities can also purchase properties where it appears necessary to do so for the protection of the structure, although where the structure is a private residence the purchase cannot be compulsory. There is no obligation on house owners to insure their houses. Questions in relation to the operation of the insurance market would be appropriate to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.