My functions as Minister with regard to the protection of our architectural heritage are set out in the Planning and Development Acts, as are the responsibilities of local authorities and owners.
The Planning and Development Acts give primary responsibility to planning authorities to identify and protect our architectural heritage by including structures on the relevant local authority’s 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.
The decision as to whether a building is placed on, or removed from the Record of Protected Structures is a reserved function of the relevant local authority. My Department does not keep a record of derelict or semi-derelict sites across the country, nor does it keep heritage sites under review generally, except where these sites are national monuments in State care or otherwise part of the historic national heritage estate which is managed by the Office of Public Works.
As Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 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 my 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. As in previous years, in cooperation with its Office of Public Works and local authority partners, my Department’s National Monuments Service will also make available such funding as may be required over the course of 2019 in relation to the discharge of my functions as Minister under the National Monuments Acts, 1930-2014, to support rescue excavations and post excavation research at archaeological sites where there is an urgent risk to such being irreparably lost or damaged.
My Department provides financial support for the protection of heritage buildings and historic structures through a number of schemes which are generally administered by local authorities.
The Built Heritage Investment Scheme is a scheme for the repair and conservation of protected 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 and tradespeople. I have allocated funding of €2.5m in total for this Scheme in 2019.
The Historic Structures Fund (formerly the Structures at Risk Fund) is for conservation works to heritage structures, in both private and public ownership. 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 fund is generally administered through the local authorities and the allocation for 2019 is €1.824 m.
Details of the projects approved under both funding schemes are published on my Department’s website and on local authority websites.
In terms of future funding, Investing in our Culture, Language and Heritage 2018 – 2027 represents a major capital investment scheme of €1.2 billion in funding over the next 10 years, as part of Project Ireland 2040. This plan will see increased investment in protecting and celebrating our built heritage across the country. More details on the commencement and completion dates for projects and programmes, as well as the timing of the expenditure in relation to them, will emerge as we go through the process of appraisal and planning as required under the Public Spending Code.
The Heritage Council, which my Department funds, also provides grants for the protection and preservation of the built heritage. It is primarily a matter for the Heritage Council to decide how its funding should be allocated across the range of research, education and conservation programmes it supports. Grant schemes are advertised by the Heritage Council on its website www.heritagecouncil.ie.