I propose to take Questions Nos. 243, 245, 246, 251 and 256 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 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 2018 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 all recorded archaeological sites and monuments in the State. Anyone proposing works to, at or in the vicinity of a monument that is included in the Record of Monument and Places must give my Department two months prior notice before works can start.
The Built Heritage Investment Scheme is a scheme for the repair and conservation of protected structures (i.e. structures on the local authority Record of Protected Structures). The scheme supports heritage projects across the country and creates employment in the conservation and construction industries, while helping to regenerate urban and rural areas, and is co-ordinated by each local authority. My Department has allocated €2m under the Built Heritage Investment Scheme 2018, of which €50,000 is the indicative amount for County Kildare.
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. Local authorities have submitted applications to my Department and they will shortly be assessed by an expert panel. Successful applicants will be notified by their local authority shortly thereafter. My Department has allocated €1,324,000 under the Structures at Risk Fund 2018. While there is no specific allocation for each local authority, I can confirm that applications have been received in respect of County Kildare.
Receipt of applications for both the Built Heritage Investment Scheme and Structures at Risk Fund are now closed, however on-going queries can be addressed to all respective local authorities who are implementing both schemes throughout 2018.
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 Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 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.
Through the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), my Department manages a property portfolio in respect of national parks and reserves of approximately 87,000 hectares. While the existing National Parks are managed from a conservation perspective, it is also recognised that they are ‘core assets’ which play a very important role in Ireland’s tourism industry.
My Department has entered into a Strategic Partnership with Fáilte Ireland and is finalising a Tourism Interpretation Masterplan; “Experiencing the Wild Heart of Ireland”. This plan sets out projects that could be developed in the National Parks to enhance their tourism offering in a managed and sustainable way.
An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D., recently launched the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan – Ireland 2040. The Framework and Plan recognise the value and importance of our culture, language and heritage as an integral part of Irish life and have built in significant support for these areas into both the plan and framework. Further details on my Department’s investment programme will be provided in the Department’s sectorial plan – Investing in our Culture, Language and Heritage – which will be launched on 1 March 2018.