The Heritage Council, in collaboration with my Department, has led the development of a best practice approach to the development of Community-Led Village Design Statements (VDS). It, in tandem with a number of local authorities and village communities, prepared a toolkit which was launched in October 2012 at the inaugural community-led VDS workshop. The toolkit sets out a step-by-step guide to undertaking a community-led VDS in Ireland, using a collaborative and participative process, and has been developed in accordance with the UNECE Aarhus Convention and the European Landscape Convention (ELC). The Heritage Council, in collaboration with a number of local authorities, has since been proactive in helping interested communities to develop VDS. In many ways, the approach followed is similar to the Historic Towns Initiative (HTI) framework, also developed by my Department in collaboration with the Heritage Council, Fáilte Ireland and relevant local authorities, although it is focussed on smaller communities.
Given the limited scope for funding, my preference is for the continued fostering of a community-led approach rather than the development of a nationwide plan, while considering the possibility of a prioritised targeted approach to towns and villages with a view to not only protecting their character and heritage, but also contributing to regional development through encouraging economic growth and employment.
However, all approaches are still under consideration as I seek to further strengthen the protection of our built heritage, which I recognise cannot be achieved without the full engagement of the respective local authorities, local communities and interested organisations.