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. Part IV of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, gives primary responsibility to planning authorities to identify and protect the architectural heritage by including particular structures on the Record of Protected Structures (RPS).
The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) was established by the Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) and Historic Monuments (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1999. Its purpose is to identify, record, and evaluate the post-1700 architectural heritage of Ireland as an aid in its protection.
As Minister, I can make recommendations to planning authorities for buildings and structures to be included on the Record of Protected Structures and these recommendations arise from the survey of the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH). 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 development proposals affecting them and to seek to safeguard their future. The final decision as to inclusion of a building or structure on the RPS, however, is a reserved function of the relevant planning authority.
The surveys are also a research and educational resource which, it is hoped, will increase public awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the post-1700 architectural heritage in Ireland.
The NIAH does not take the physical condition of a building into consideration when selecting and recording sites, structures or buildings of architectural heritage significance. The Planning and Development Act 2000 defines architectural heritage as structures or parts of structures which are of Architectural, Historical, Archaeological, Artistic, Cultural, Scientific, Social or Technical interest. The Categories of Special Interest can be seen as a list of criteria to be considered when evaluating a structure. The categories are not mutually exclusive and a structure may be attributed with several of the categories. The Act makes no reference to physical condition as a means of evaluating the significance of a site, structure or building.
The NIAH records a broad range of buildings, including those which are fully habitable and in use, as well as derelict houses and ruined castles. Most NIAH records are made through a visual, exterior only, inspection. A physical condition evaluation is an entirely different function and should only be undertaken by a suitably qualified historic buildings professional who has full access to all aspects of the relevant site, structure or building, including the interior, attic and basement spaces, as applicable.