Frequently Asked Questions Relating to Protected Structures:
Why protect our architectural heritage?
Our architectural heritage is a unique and exceptional resource. Structures and places that have acquired character and special interest over time have cultural significance in a changing world. All of their parts have been tested by our climate, and those that have survived the process of decay, and the depredations of their users, have acquired economic, environmental and aesthetic value. If we enjoy the fruits of this inheritance, we have a duty to ensure that it is conserved, sympathetically reused, and passed on to our successors with its value intact.
Our architectural heritage consists not only of great artistic achievements, but also the everyday works of craftsmanship of the past. The creative challenge faced by custodians of this heritage is to find appropriate ways to prolong its cultural life, satisfying the requirements of a structure to be safe, stable and durable on the one hand, and retaining its character and fabric of special interest the other.
What is a protected structure?
A protected structure is a structure that a planning authority considers to be of special interest from an architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social, or technical point of view. Every planning authority is obliged to have a Record of Protected Structures (RPS) that includes all structures of special interest in its functional area and into which details of protected structures are entered. The RPS forms part of the Development Plan.
The legislation to introduce the concept of protected structures was the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1999, replacing the previous system for protecting and preserving structures by listing them in development plans. All the Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts from 1963 to 2015 have now been consolidated in the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2015. Part IV of 2000 Act deals with Architectural Heritage and incorporates the provisions of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1999
How does a building become a protected structure?
As stated above, structures that are of special interest from an architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social, or technical point of view are proposed for inclusion in the RPS. Anyone can recommend a building for protection, but the decision to include structures in the RPS can only be made by the elected members of the planning authority. The planning authority must notify the owners and occupiers of the proposed protected structure, the Minister for Environment and Local Government, and other bodies of the proposal. Particulars of additions are put on public display for at least 6 weeks. During which time anyone, including the owner or occupier, is entitled to make comments on such a proposal to the planning authority. The authority is obliged to take these comments into consideration before its elected members decide, within 12 weeks of end of display period, whether or not the structure should be entered onto the RPS. Within two weeks of its decision, the planning authority must notify the owner and occupier of the structure of that decision.
While a structure is a proposed protected structure it has the same protection as a protected structure with regard to the duties and responsibilities of the owners and occupiers.
What obligations fall on owners and occupiers to ensure the protection of a protected structure?
Each owner and occupier must ensure that neither a protected structure, nor any element of a protected structure that contributes to its special interest, is endangered through harm, decay or damage, whether over a short or long period, through neglect, through direct or indirect means. This duty is the same for owners and occupiers of proposed protected structures. In general, if a structure is maintained in a habitable condition and routine maintenance carried out (e.g. cleaning out gutters, repair of slipped slates), then it should not become endangered.
The protection applies to all parts of the structure that contribute to its character and special interest, including its interior, surrounding land or 'curtilage', and any other structures on that land, and their interiors, and all fixtures and features of these structures.
Do special procedures apply to protected structures under the planning system?
How does an owner or occupier know which works require planning permission?
Protected Structure status does not preclude development or alteration. However it does require the owner or occupier to consult with the planning authority, either through pre-application discussions, planning application process or declaration, to ensure that elements that make the structure significant are not lost during development.
If works are proposed to a Protected Structure a planning application is made in the usual way. However, there are some additional requirements. Because it is necessary for an application to show how a proposed development would affect the character of the structure, the application may need to be more detailed than an ordinary application and include extra drawings, photographs and other material to explain the proposals. Please refer to Architectural Heritage Protection Guidelines (see below for link) for more information about the additional documentation required when submitting a planning application for a protected structure.
Certain works that are normally considered exempted development may require planning permission when taking place on a protected structure, if those works would affect the character of the structure or any element of the structure that contributes to its special interest. An owner or occupier of a protected structure may ask the planning authority for a declaration indicating the types of works that could be carried out without materially affecting the character of the structure. These works would not require planning permission. Generally, in a declaration maintenance works carried out in accordance with the Department of the Environment Conservation Guidelines would be deemed not to materially affect the character of the structure and, therefore, would not require planning permission.
A planning authority will, in general, issue such a declaration within three months of receiving a request. There is no fee for this service.
Are there any measures in place to assist owners and occupiers to preserve a protected structure?
Yes. A conservation grant scheme is operated by planning authorities, to assist the owner or occupier of a protected structure to undertake necessary works to secure its building fabric. Each planning authority will have a Scheme of Priorities to assist them in assessing applications.
The standard grant is 50% of the approved cost of works, up to a maximum of €13,000. A planning authority may recommend, in exceptional circumstances, a grant of 75% of the approved cost of works, up to €25,000.
Full details of the Conservation Grant Scheme are available from your planning authority.
Do planning authorities have special powers in relation to protected structures?
Yes. The planning authority now has greater powers under the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2015 to ensure the protection of structures listed in the RPS. However, these powers are generally only used in exceptional circumstances when all other avenues have failed.
A planning authority may require an owner or an occupier of a protected structure to carry out works if it considers that the structure is, or may become, endangered. The planning authority will specify the works it considers necessary.
The planning authority also has the power to carry out the works itself and recover its expenses from the owner or occupier. In exceptional circumstances a planning authority may acquire, by agreement or compulsorily, a protected structure if it considers that this is necessary to secure the protection of the structure.
Where a planning authority requires works to be carried out to prevent a protected structure from becoming or continuing to be endangered, the owner or occupier concerned may be eligible for grant assistance as described above.
There is provision in the 2000-2015 Acts to impose a substantial fine and/or prison term for those found guilty of damaging a protected structure.