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November 25, 2002

National Inventory of Architectural Heritage launched

logo_antaisceMr. Martin Cullen, T.D., Minister for the Environment and Local Government has launched the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage series of publications at the Custom House, Dublin. (The Minister’s Speech in full) The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage represents a systematic survey of Ireland’s post-1700 built heritage, to assist planning authorities in protecting it and to help form the basis of future conservation policy. Surveys are being carried out by Duchas, the Heritage Service of the Department of the Environment and Local Government. The first surveys to be published are of counties Carlow, South Dublin, Fingal, and Laois with Kerry, Kildare and Meath to be published early in 2003.

They are published as illustrated bilingual books, which will raise public awareness of some of the architectural gems in each county. The surveys are also being published in digital format on searchable CD-ROM’s with descriptive text, photographs and mapping of the structures recorded.

An introduction to the architectural heritage of South County Dublin”The published surveys will allow each planning authority to make informed judgements on the significance of structures in their remit” said the Minister. “I have already recommended to Carlow and South Dublin County Councils to consider including the structures evaluated as being of regional or higher importance in their record of protected structures. Further recommendations to Fingal and Laois County Councils will issue shortly. The decision on whether to accept, or otherwise, my recommendations will, however, rest with the local elected representatives.”

Minister Cullen expressed his delight at the launch of the survey, and reiterated his Department’s policy to co-operate with and assist planning authorities to ensure that the objective of protecting the built heritage is achieved.

Speech by Mr. Martin Cullen, T .D., Minister for the Environment & Local Government, on the occasion of the national launch of the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage publications on Monday 25 November, 2002.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be with you this afternoon for the national launch of the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage series of publications. I would like to particularly thank Marian Finucane for joining with me at today’s proceedings.

Marian is, of course, no stranger to architectural matters, having covered many different issues in recent years, such as presenting the “Nation Building” TV series for RTE and facilitating the ongoing public debate on the proposed regeneration of O’Connell Street in Dublin on her radio programme. Marian also contributed to the formulation of the Government Policy on Architecture by chairing the task group on Policy for the Promotion of Public A wareness of Architecture for the former Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht & the Islands.

The protection of our architectural heritage is a key strategic objective for my Department. Over the past number of years, there has been a growing public awareness of the need to strengthen the protection of our built heritage.

In recent years substantial progress has been made to redress the situation. In 1998 the Package of Proposals for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage was launched. That package, which is being progressively implemented, adopts a comprehensive approach to the protection of our architectural heritage. As part of the package, two pieces of legislation were enacted.

One placed the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage on a statutory footing. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage represents a systematic survey of our post-1700 built heritage, to assist planning authorities in protecting it and to help form the basis of future conservation policy. A total of 17 town surveys and 3 interim county surveys have been published to date.

I intend that interim surveys for each county will be published as soon as possible and that detailed surveys will follow. The data obtained will be used to assist in the identification of particular properties for inclusion in the record of protected structures.

In this context, as surveys are published, I will formally recommend to planning authorities that structures rated as being of regional, national or international importance be included in the Record of Protected Structures. Ministerial recommendations have been made to date in respect of a total of 4,528 individual structures.

The other legislative measure was the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 1999, now incorporated in Part IV of the Planning & Development Act 2000, which substantially strengthened the law in relation to the protection of the built heritage.The key provisions of the Act are: -

  • To oblige each planning authority to keep a Record of Protected Structures.
  • To enable the Record of Protected Structures to be kept up to date.
  • To enable the issuing of guidelines to planning authorities on the practical implementation of their new responsibilities.
  • To enable me to recommend to planning authorities the inclusion of particular structures in the Record of Protected Structures.
  • To place clear responsibilities on the owners and occupiers of protected structures
  • To enable owners and occupiers to obtain a declaration from their planning authority as to what works require planning permission
  • To provide a range of powers to enable a planning authority to secure the future of a protected structure.

In summary, these new powers enable planning authorities to safeguard the integrity of protected structures and oblige owners to do so also.

This is a major advance in the way we seek to preserve our built heritage. Most importantly, it brings a more systematic and uniform approach within the framework of proper planning and sustainable development which is the fundamental principle underpinning the 2000 Planning Act.

The challenges for planning authorities in meeting their new responsibilities are significant and should not be underestimated. The new legislative measures are supported by an advisory service at national level, financial support for the provision of conservation expertise at local level and a programme of grant assistance for the owners of protected structures. I look forward to co-operating with and assisting planning authorities to ensure that the objectives of the Act are met. I should stress, however, that my Department’s role is essentially advisory , with primary responsibility residing within the planning system.

Today’s national launch of the NIAH series of surveys, of which Carlow, South Dublin, Fingal and Laois are the first, marks a significant change from earlier paper based publications. Each survey is being published in digital format on searchable CD-ROM’s with descriptive text, photographs and mapping of the structures recorded. Each survey is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated bilingual introduction to the architectural heritage of the county .The purpose of the introduction, together with the survey material, is to identify and promote a representative selection of the surviving architectural heritage in the county.

Ireland may not be perceived to possess a wealth of architecturally important structures, however, I hope that this series of publications, by drawing upon both famous and lesser known sites and building types, can go some way towards changing peoples’ perception of what constitutes our architectural heritage.

Architect-designed, or the work of an anonymous builder or craftsman, every structure has a meaningful story to tell. In an era of significant development, every effort should therefore be made to ensure that this inheritance is given the due respect and care it deserves.

I would like to compliment the team of officials from my Department and those others that have contributed to the publication of these surveys. They can be justifiably proud of their work. I hope that the county surveys of Meath, Kildare and Kerry will be published early next year and that those of Leitrim, Roscommon, Waterford and Wicklow will follow.

The published surveys will allow each planning authority to make informed judgements on the significance of structures in their remit. Formal recommendations have already been made to Carlow, Laois and South Dublin County Councils to consider including the structures evaluated as being of regional or higher importance in their record of protected structures. Further recommendations to Fingal County Council will issue shortly. The decision on whether to accept, or otherwise, my recommendations will, however, rest with the local elected representatives.

In that regard, I will be writing to each councillor seeking support for my recommendations, together with a complimentary copy of the relevant publication. Complimentary copies will also be sent to those key officials dealing with planning and development in the county. An important aspect of our strategy to raise the overall awareness of our built heritage is to focus on our schoolchildren. In that context, my Department will be sending a copy of the relevant publication to every second-level school in the county.

There may be some who believe that inclusion in the record of protected structures precludes further development. I can assure you that this is not the case, it merely ensures that development proposals are properly considered. Recent examples of this were the proposed refurbishment of Cypress Grove House in Templeogue, the Old Jail in Youghal and the former Mercy Convent in Naas. In each of these cases, following constructive discussions between the owners, local planners and Duchas the Heritage Service of my Department, reasonable compromises were reached, whereby the proposed developments could proceed, with the character of the structures restored and many worthwhile elements preserved for posterity. These are just a few of many instances I could cite to show that structures can be both protected and adapted for new uses.

As can be seen from these examples, my officials seek to balance continued use of buildings with protection of the essential character of buildings of heritage importance and the NIAH publications aim to win over the hearts and minds of the general public to the value of that heritage around them.

Accordingly, I would emphasise that, in time, the inclusion of a building on the record of protected structures will be seen as enhancing the status and value of a property. This has happened in other countries and I believe the saMe can happen in Ireland. If we are successful, we will retain much of the fabric of our built heritage, which will be a source of joy and pride to local communities.

In conclusion, I want to thank Marian for taking time out from her busy schedule to participate in today’s launch and to thank you all for your time and attention. I look forward to many more NIAH surveys been published in the near future.