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March 20, 2008

Gormley Announces Substantial Increase in Funding for Conservation and Protection of Built Heritage

Mr. John Gormley, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, has announced a funding package amounting to almost 25 Million to support built heritage projects in 2008. The provision represents a record increase of 42% on the amount spent in 2007.

The main elements of the programme are as follows:

  • 7m approx. to be spent on architectural protection grants administered by the local authorities, an increase of 17% on the amounts spent in 2007;

  • 4.4M in funding for the Civic Structure Grants scheme. More than doubling from 1.9m in 2007 to 4.4m this year, with a new grant scheme of 1.9m to support works on churches of significant architectural importance;
  • 7m allocation to the Office of Public Works, an increase of almost 30% on 2007, to support works on properties in State care;
  • 6.1m (in excess) to fund works on properties not in State care – much of this investment to be channelled through the Heritage Council.

The Minister stated “Investment in built heritage conservation is vital for the safeguarding of our important architectural heritage and the increased level of funding, which I have secured this year underlines the Government’s commitment in this area. I am confident the increased package of funding measures that I am announcing today will encourage an integrated and multidisciplinary approach to built heritage conservation as a whole.”

gormley_johnAn important element of this funding package sees the allocation of nearly 7m to local authorities to support the conservation of protected structures, a 17% increase over the amount spent in 2007. The Minister said, “local authorities have a key role in delivering effective conservation programmes in their areas. The additional 1m I am providing will allow local authorities support additional projects in 2008″. Such conservation projects on protected structures include thatching houses, work on shop and pub fronts, timber sash windows, and repair/conservation of features of architectural significance generally.

The Minister noted the important role that local authority Conservation Officers play in ensuring the conservation and protection of the Built Heritage and encouraging best practice at a local level. In recognition of this, the Minister has provided additional funding to local authorities that have recruited them.

The Minister also announced a doubling of funding for the Civic Structure Grant scheme. Minister Gormley said “I am delighted to announce a fund of 4.4m for the Civic Structure Conservation Grant Scheme in 2008. I have increased funds available for this scheme by 2.5m in order to provide not only additional funding for structures of significant architectural heritage merit which are in public ownership or open to the public but also to establish a new fund to support conservation works in our churches. Many of our churches are of considerable architectural importance and they house examples of fine sculpture, mosaics and stained glass and are generally accessible to the local community. It is important that we protect this important part of our built heritage and, indeed of our social history. I believe this new fund will be an important step in supporting their conservation”. Details of the operation of the Fund are being finalised by his Department.

The Civic Structures Conservation Grants scheme attracted some 190 applications this year. The applications received relate to existing or former church buildings, monuments, canal locks, market houses, former barracks, bridges, Goals, public monuments and schoolhouses. An independent advisory panel of conservation experts assesses the applications.

The Walled Towns Initiative was launched last year and administered by the Heritage Council. Minister Gormley said he wants “to build on this excellent start and therefore I have allocated a further 2m funding in 2008. Walled Towns are a very significant tourist attraction and contribute considerably to the towns that are fortunate enough to have such iconic features. I believe we must do our best to conserve these beautiful reminders of our rich history.”

It is estimated that up to 40 towns North and South have surviving medieval walls. These originated in the building of defensive strongholds that evolved into medieval walled towns. They came to function as the political, cultural and economic engines that drove the development of these towns. The list of towns is widespread and ranges from major urban centres and smaller rural locations. This list would includes include Athenry, Athlone, Carlingford, Carrickfergus, Cashel, Clonmel, Cork City, Drogheda, Dublin, Fethard, Galway, Kilkenny, Kilmallock, Limerick, Trim, Waterford, Wexford, and Youghal. Preservation of these structures contributes to the attractiveness of their area and often has positive economic and tourism spin-offs.

The Built Heritage funding package for 2008 also provides substantial funding of 7m to the Office of Public Works for projects at a number of State owned heritage sites. These projects will apply the highest standards in conservation, and proposed works include: St. Endas Pearse Museum; National Botanic Gardens; Phoenix Park lodges; Heywood Gardens; Connolly’s Folly; Durrow Abbey, and Nenagh Castle.

The Minister is especially pleased to facilitate the commencement of the last phase of works to the Botanic Gardens, which will include the restoration of the Cactus/Waterlily/Fern House resulting in the faithful restoration of two Victorian glasshouses. The funding will ensure that the Botanic Gardens are fully restored for the World Conference of National Botanic Gardens in 2010.

This year’s programme also provides continued support for a number of significant heritage properties held in trust or private ownership including Bantry House, Johnstown Castle, Marlfield House, and Fota House. The Minister stated, “the Heritage Council are to be commended for their ongoing dedication to the protection and conservation of selected key heritage properties throughout the country. The Council plays a pivotal role in identifying and managing conservation works at key properties which can then be preserved for future generations to enjoy”.

In conclusion, the Minister stated, “The Programme for Government placed the protection of our Built Heritage centre stage. I am now giving effect to the commitments contained in the Programme by providing substantial additional funding across all grant schemes, by strengthening the role of the Heritage Council and by encouraging in a practical way the recruitment of conservation officers by local authorities”.

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