I propose to take Questions Nos. 439, 440 and 444 together.
My role, as Minister, with regard to the protection and management of our architectural heritage, is set out in the provisions of relevant legislation, as are the roles of local authorities and the responsibilities of owners as regards heritage assets.
Part IV of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, provides for the protection of architectural heritage. The Act gives primary responsibility to planning authorities to identify and protect the architectural heritage by including relevant structures on the Record of Protected Structures. Inclusion on 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 and to seek to safeguard their future.
I also have a role, as Minister, in terms of being a prescribed body under the Planning and Development Regulations 2001-2015, whereby development proposals that may impact on our built heritage are referred by planning authorities to my Department so that recommendations can be made as appropriate to avoid or mitigate any such impacts.
My Department has a number of measures at its disposal to facilitate the maintenance and restoration of major historical or cultural sites. As Minister, I am the owner or guardian under the National Monuments Acts 1930-2014 of approximately 1,000 national monuments located at approximately 750 sites and in such cases there is a statutory duty to maintain the national monument. Such maintenance is undertaken by the Office of Public Works (OPW). Local authorities are responsible under the National Monuments Acts for maintaining the national monuments of which they are owners or guardians.
My Department is also providing €350,000 of funding to the OPW in 2017 to assist in the conservation and presentation of historic buildings and national monuments in State ownership. My Department’s National Monuments Service works in close collaboration with the OPW on survey, excavation and research work to optimise the protection, management, interpretation and presentation of national monuments in State care.
Under the provisions of the National Monuments Acts, my Department has established and maintains the Record of Monuments and Places, which affords legal protection to over 120,000 recorded archaeological sites and monuments in the State. Anyone proposing works to a monument that is included in the Record of Monument and Places must give my Department two months prior notice before works can start.
I launched a €2 million scheme - the Built Heritage Investment Scheme - for the repair and conservation of protected structures on 21 October 2015. This scheme operated in 2016, via the local authorities, on the same model as the very successful Built Heritage Jobs Leverage Scheme, which ran in 2014. It is operating again this year and is expected to support in excess of 330 projects across the country in 2017 and to create employment in the conservation and construction industries, while helping to regenerate urban and rural areas.
The Structures at Risk Fund enables conservation works to heritage structures, in both private and public ownership, which are protected under the Planning and Development Acts and are deemed to be at significant risk of deterioration. This fund, administered through the local authorities, supported 57 projects nationally in 2016. It seeks to encourage the regeneration and reuse of heritage properties and to help to secure the preservation of protected structures which might otherwise be lost. The scheme is operating again in 2017.
Receipt of applications for both the Built Heritage Investment Scheme and Structures at Risk are now closed, however on-going queries can be addressed to all respective local authorities who are implementing both schemes throughout 2017.
The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage is a state initiative to identify, record, and evaluate the post-1700 built heritage of Ireland, uniformly and consistently as an aid to its protection and conservation. The NIAH building surveys provide the basis for my recommendations, as Minister for Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, to the planning authorities for the inclusion of particular structures in their Record of Protected Structures. The published surveys are a source of information on the selected structures for relevant planning authorities. They are also a research and educational resource.
In view of the broad range of measures in place across the various areas of our built heritage which I have outlined above which involve my Department, Local Government and the OPW I do not consider that a further audit is required.