Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Questions (47)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

46 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will report on his recent allocation of €712,000 for the protection of vulnerable structures; if he will consider initiating a nationwide audit of vulnerable sites in view of the current status, for example, of sites such as the historic Belcamp College, Dublin 17; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35038/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht)

As the Deputy will appreciate, the scope to provide financial support for the State's heritage assets is constrained by the current significant reduction in the public finances. However, my Department will continue to provide funding for the protection, conservation and development of our built and natural heritage, in so far as resources allow.

In 2012, my Department is providing €500,000 in grant-aid assistance through a Structures at Risk Fund. The Fund is intended to assist with works to safeguard structures protected under the Planning and Development Act 2000-2012 and, in certain cases, works to structures within Architectural Conservation Areas. I wish to advise the Deputy that I recently approved offers of funding to 41 conservation projects in 27 local authority areas under the Structures at Risk Fund. Details of projects in receipt of grant-aid offers will shortly be available on my Department's website at www.ahg.gov.ie.

This year, in a complementary initiative, my Department introduced a Special Projects Fund. This Fund is administered directly by my Department and is intended to assist with works to safeguard structures of significant special interest protected under the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2012. The total amount available under the Fund in 2012 is €272,000. To date, I have committed €212,000 from the fund for conservation works to the internationally important St. Fin Barre's Cathedral in Cork city.

With regard to the matter of initiating a nationwide audit of vulnerable structures, I wish to advise the Deputy of mechanisms in place centrally and locally to protect our shared architectural heritage. Under the provisions of Part IV (Architectural Heritage) of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2012, each planning authority is required to include in its development plan a Record of Protected Structures. The making of an addition to, or deletion from, a Record of Protected Structures is a reserved function of the planning authorities. Inclusion in the Record of Protected Structures places a duty of care on the owners and occupiers of protected structures and also gives planning authorities powers to deal with development proposals affecting them, seek to safeguard their future and serve notice to require works to be carried out in relation to endangerment of protected structures. Section 59 of the Act provides for a planning authority to serve notice to require works to be carried out in relation to endangerment of such structures. In the context of the foregoing, my Department does not collate comprehensive information on the numbers of vulnerable sites throughout the State.

Finally, as regards current and ongoing initiatives to assist in the safeguarding of our built heritage, I would draw the Deputy's attention to several key developments.

My Department, with the assistance of an Expert Advisery Committee representing key stakeholders, is currently concluding a review of the operation of Part IV (Architectural Heritage) of the Planning and Development Act 2000-2012. The review examined how this legislation is operating in practice regarding the protection and management of architectural heritage from a central and local government perspective and the need, in the light of current economic circumstances, to consider alternative ways of supporting the conservation of protected structures.

Separately, in the context of the Government Policy on Architecture 2009-2015, my Department is developing various policy actions which contribute to the protection and appropriate re-use of our built heritage and aims to deal with on-going strategic objectives indirectly effecting our architectural heritage such as adaptive re-use for historic properties and a forward plan-led approach to cultural heritage and urban design in our towns and cities.