Thursday, 12 December 2019

Ceisteanna (10)

Martin Heydon


10. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the funding available for built heritage projects in County Kildare in 2020; the drawdown of funds for such projects in 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51904/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Culture)

This question seeks to ascertain the funding available for the built heritage projects throughout County Kildare that have requested funding, and the extent to which it has been drawn down.

It is fitting that Deputy Durkan is taking Deputy Heydon's question because they share the same county.

My Department provides financial support for the protection of heritage buildings and historic structures through two grant schemes - the built heritage investment scheme, BHIS, and the historic structures fund, HSF - which are generally administered by the local authorities. On 14 November, I launched the 2020 BHIS and the HSF and announced combined funding of almost €4.3 million.

Applications under the BHIS are assessed by the local authorities and awarded funding with the approval of my Department. Kildare County Council has been allocated €79,000 under the 2020 BHIS, the same amount as was allocated and drawn down in 2019.

There is no specific county allocation for the HSF. Applications are short-listed by local authorities and then assessed by a panel of experts, including officials of my Department. In 2019, three projects were put forward to the Department for consideration. Following assessment, one project, Newbridge College clock tower, Junior House, was approved, to the value of €25,000. This has been drawn down.

Both the BHIS and the HSF are administered by the local authorities and are now open for applications until 31 January 2020. Full details of the schemes are on my Department's website.

On 28 November, I announced funding of €1 million for the historic towns initiative, which my Department runs in conjunction with the Heritage Council. The initiative is a fund for the heritage-led regeneration of historic towns with an indicative minimum population of 1,500. This initiative is now open for applications and would, of course, include many Kildare towns. Projects under the historic towns initiative vary greatly from town to town but have to date included the upgrading of historic shop fronts as well as the regeneration of built heritage sites.

I assure the Minister we have an abundance of suitable heritage and built heritage sites throughout County Kildare, north, south and central. I thank her for her detailed reply.

Is the existing funding still available and can it be increased to accommodate further enthusiasm for making applications under the various headings referred to?

The funding cannot be increased for next year but I appreciate the Deputy's interest in it. There is €79,000 in the fund. In 2019, there were a number of grants for Kildare under the BHIS. The recipients were Church of Ireland, Kilberry; St. Michael's Church, Athy; Johnstown graveyard and church; Sean Chill, Donaghcumper, Celbridge; Church of the Holy Saviour, Narraghmore; Ard Na Gréine, Canal View, Sallins; 7 Canning Place, Newbridge; Leixlip Boathouse, Leixlip; Pebble Hill House, Maynooth; Riverstown House, Kildangan; Grattan Vault, Celbridge; Mill Cottage, Sallins; and the thatched cottage in Thomastown. I announced the BHIS and HSF on 14 November 2019. They will operate again in 2020, with total funding of up to €4.3 million across the country.

I fully support and encourage the Minister to proceed in that general direction in the hope there will be an increase in the number of applications under the various headings for the coming year and that she will find it possible to extend the fund in every way possible to cover the important historic and heritage venues all over the county.

These have played a major role in our nation's history. They include the building in which we sit, Leinster House, as well as Carton House and various other houses throughout County Kildare.

As I mentioned regarding climate action, it is important that we protect our archaeological and built heritage. Many people are not aware that it will be affected by climate change. The heritage section of my Department is very aware of that, however. We are also fund up to 500 projects under the built heritage grant scheme, which will be open through the local authorities in 2020. In addition, we will publish the national heritage plan and hold a heritage forum in Dublin Castle. We will continue to support the Office of Public Works, with which we work closely in tandem in respect of conservation projects at our national monuments and historical properties. Blueways are of great interest in County Kildare, in particular the Barrow blueway, which will be funded and will bring significant economic and social benefits to the county. There is much support in Kildare for the project and we are very pleased to bring it forward under the remit of Waterways Ireland.