My role with regard to the protection and management of our architectural and archaeological heritage is set out in the provisions of relevant legislation, including the Planning Acts and the National Monuments Acts, as are the roles of local authorities and the responsibilities of owners.
With regard to the safeguarding of protected structures, Part IV of the Planning and Development Act 2000 gives primary responsibility to local authorities to identify and protect architectural heritage by including particular structures on their respective Records 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 any development proposals affecting them.
While my Department is not operationally responsible for the carrying out of such works, it provides financial support for the protection of heritage buildings and historic structures through two grant schemes which are, in the main, administered by the local authorities. These are the Built Heritage Investment Scheme (BHIS) and the Historic Structures Fund (HSF).
The BHIS is a scheme for the repair and conservation of structures on the local authority RPS. 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 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.
Last year 450 heritage projects across every county in the country benefited from a combined sum of over €4.3m under BHIS and HSF. An extra €1m in funding was secured for built heritage projects under the July Jobs Stimulus Package 2020, which aims to offset some of the effects of Covid-19. This funding supplemented 28 BHIS and HSF projects and supported 12 new ones, in addition to capital works by the Heritage Council and the Irish Heritage Trust.
I recently launched the BHIS and HSF for 2021, with a combined allocation of €6m, an increase of nearly 40% over 2020. Full details are available on my Department’s website and on the website of each local authority. In light of delays arising as a result of current Level 5 restrictions, I have extended the deadline for applications from Local Authorities to the Department to Friday 12 March. Individual owners should check with the relevant Local Authority regarding local deadlines.
Last year I also introduced the Community Monuments Fund (CMF) under which €1.4m was allocated for conservation and other works at our national monuments. A total of 69 CMF projects nationally were supported and I hope shortly to announce a continuance of the scheme for 2021.