As the Minister with primary responsibility for heritage, I am developing a comprehensive and systematic policy and legislative framework for the protection of the architectural heritage. A key component of this overall strategy is the implementation of the package of legislative, financial and administrative measures for the protection of the architectural heritage announced by myself and my colleague, Deputy Dempsey, Minister for the Environment and Local Government in May 1998. These measures include the establishment of a new grant-aid scheme for approved conservation works to protected (listed) buildings. This scheme will commence in 1999, will be administered by local authorities, will have funding of approximately £4m per annum, and will be operated in accordance with national criteria and standards which are being drawn up by an advisory group made up of representatives of my own Department, the Department of the Environment and Local Government and the Heritage Council. In addition, existing policy initiatives in relation to the architectural heritage will be brought together and further policy areas will be developed in the context of the national heritage plan, the initiation of which I recently announced.
Houses and castles of architectural and historic interest form a part of the architectural heritage and, where appropriate, issues of maintenance, preservation and public access will be addressed in the context of the foregoing.
In relation to public access, one of the conditions of tax relief under section 19 of the Finance Act, 1982, which provides for full relief from income tax or corporation tax to the owner or occupier of a building of significant historical, architectural or aesthetic interest in respect of expenditure incurred in the repair, maintenance or restoration of such a building, relates to the provision of public access to the building.