Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (3040)

Bernard Durkan


3040. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the level of protection in place to protect heritage sites and buildings with a view to maximising economic opportunity arising there from in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34656/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

Part IV of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, gives primary responsibility to planning authorities to identify and protect the architectural heritage by including particular structures on the Record of Protected Structures (RPS). Inclusion on the RPS 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 and to seek to safeguard their future.

As Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, I can make recommendations to planning authorities for buildings and structures to be included on the Record of Protected Structures. These recommendations arise from the survey of the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH), which is managed by my Department. The final decision as to inclusion of a building or structure on the RPS is a reserved function of the relevant planning authority.

As Minister, I am the owner or guardian of almost 1000 national monuments in State care right across the country, ranging from prehistoric burial monuments to medieval fortifications and religious sites. Sites in my ownership or guardianship are maintained by the Office of Public Works. Conservation matters in relation to these sites are managed through regular liaison between the OPW and the Department, identifying condition issues and proposing appropriate conservation actions, carried out under consent where relevant.

My Department also provides funding to the OPW to assist in the conservation and presentation of historic buildings and national monuments in State ownership.

The legislation protects our heritage for its intrinsic, rather than economic, value. I recognise, however, the additional value that the conservation of our historic sites and buildings can bring to communities as well as the value to be gained from the related promotion of traditional building skills. As such, my Department provides financial support for the protection of heritage buildings and historic structures through the Historic Structures Fund (HSF) and the Built Heritage Investment Scheme (BHIS), which are administered by local authorities.

The Historic Structures Fund (HSF) is for conservation and enhancement to heritage structures and historic buildings, in both private and public ownership, for the benefit of communities and the public. The primary focus of the Historic Structures Fund is on conservation and enhancement of historic structures and buildings for the benefit of communities and the public. The allocation for 2019 was €1.824 million and I announced the successful projects under this fund on 28 March 2019; a full list of the awards can be found on my Department’s website.

The Built Heritage Investment Scheme (BHIS) is a scheme for the repair and conservation of structures on the local authority Record of Protected Structures. It is designed to leverage private capital for investment in small scale conservation projects across the country and to support the employment of skilled conservation professionals. The fund is administered through the local authorities. The allocation for 2019 was €2.5 million and I announced the successful projects under this fund on 28 March 2019; a full list of the awards can be found on my Department’s website.

While the closing date for the 2019 schemes has now passed, my Department remains in contact with local authorities throughout the year to ensure the best use of funding, including by reallocating funding where, for example, projects do not go ahead.

Additionally, the Historic Towns Initiative is a joint undertaking between my Department and the Heritage Council, which my Department funds. It is a capital funding scheme to provide support to historic towns engaged in a programme of heritage-led regeneration. The HTI makes available capital funding – in 2019 this amounted to €1,000,000 –to local authorities. Local authorities must match any contribution awarded under the scheme.

The internationally recognised practice of heritage-led regeneration shows that heritage can be used to create a desirable place where people can live, visit and do business. Heritage-led regeneration brings economic benefits to enable our historic towns to prosper through increased visitor numbers and decreased numbers of vacant buildings and commercial premises. Each local authority is invited to apply in respect of one historic town with an indicative minimum population of 1,500 inhabitants. Priority is given to projects that are ‘plan-led’ and likely to make a meaningful contribution to the heritage-led regeneration of the town. In 2019 €1m was allocated between six towns: Kilrush, County Clare; Letterkenny, County Donegal; Ballina, County Mayo ; Navan, County Meath ; Boyle, County Roscommon ; Nenagh, County Tipperary.