Monkstown Church

Legislation in respect of protected structures

(Republic of Ireland)

Department of Environment Heritage and Local Government Guidelines for the Architectural Heritage Protection of Places of Public Worship

Parishes in the Republic of Ireland will be aware of the enacting of comprehensive legislation to protect the country's architectural heritage - Part IV of the Local Government (Planning & Development) Act, 2000. This legislation derives from the obligations of Ireland's 1997 ratification of the 1985 Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe, drawn up by the Council of Europe and signed in Grenada, Spain.

The legislation introduced the designation of "protected structure" (to replace that of a "listed building") and many Church of Ireland churches have subsequently been added to the Record of Protected Structures (RPS) of the relevant Local Authorities.

The legislation imposes two obligations on the owners and occupiers of "protected structures":

  1. Each owner and occupier of a "protected structure" or proposed "protected structure" shall ensure that the structure, or any element of it that contributes to its special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest, is not endangered. (S.58 (1), 2000 Act). It should be noted that this is a positive duty of care. "Endangered" means 'exposed to harm, decay or damage, whether immediately or over a period of time, through neglect or through direct or indirect means.'
  2. The carrying out of works to a "protected structure" or within its curtilage require planning permission from the Local Authority if those works would materially affect the character of the structure or any element of the structure which contributes to its special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest. (S.57(1),2000Act).

Owners may seek a 'Declaration' from their Local Authority, which will define what works to the particular 'protected structure' the Local Authority would allow to be exempt from the requirement to obtain planning permission prior to works being carried out.

Grant aid in the Republic of Ireland

To help the owners of 'protected structures', state funded grant aid is available (subject to funding capacity) from three sources:

  1. Local Authority Conservation grants. Administered annually. Up to 75% of proposed expenditure to a max of Euro 12,000. Grant must be drawn down within the calendar year of date of approval. Only paid on completion of works.
  2. Heritage Council grants. The Heritage Council is an independent statutory body, set up by the Heritage Act 1995, and financed by an annual block grant from the Department of Finance. Grants allocated annually in advance. Up to 75% of proposed expenditure must be drawn down within the calendar year of approval. Staged disbursement if bridging finance is a challenge. Conservation Plans generally required if the building is large, before grant aid would be considered, to ensure that all aspects of the conservation of the structure have been considered in a structured way.
  3. The EU co-financed Conservation Grant Scheme for public buildings (2000-2006), provides support for 'not for profit' bodies (which includes the churches) to upgrade buildings of significant architectural and heritage merit which are in public ownership or open to the public generally. Details from the Urban and Village Development Section of the DOE. Administered annually by the Department of the Environment, with grant paid on completion of works and only within calendar year of approval.

The above state funded heritage building grants together with the income of Diocesan funds dedicated to building maintenance means that there is a matrix of funds available for the repair of historic churches.

It should also be noted that FAS still operate limited training programmes relating to historic buildings in public use. The availability and usefulness of these schemes varies greatly around the country.

Balligan, county Down

Section 482 taxes consolidation act, 1997 (RI)

Under Section 482 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 a Scheme can be established whereby expenditure on the refurbishment of an 'approved building' (intrinsically of significant scientific, historical, architectural or aesthetic interest) to which reasonable access is afforded to the public, can be eligible for tax relief. Professional advice would need to be obtained in order to ascertain eligibility to participate in such a scheme.

Local Authority buildings conservation officers

Each Local Authority is meant to employ a professionally qualified Buildings Conservation Officer as part of their Planning staff to advise on all planning applications relating to protected structures. Currently approximately half the Local Authorities in the state have Building Conservation Officers in place.

Liturgical requirements

The Planning and Development Act, 2000 specifically refers to 'protected structures' that are 'regularly used as a place of public worship' and Local Authorities are required to 'respect liturgical requirements' when assessing planning applications and issuing Declarations (S.57 (5) & (6), 2000 Act).

At the end of 2003, the Minister of Environment, Heritage and Local Government issued Guidelines for Local Authorities specifically relating to the operation of the Planning and Development Act, 2000 in terms of Architectural Heritage Protection for Places of Public Worship. These require that a Local Authority consult with the relevant church authority regarding all requests for a declaration or a planning application concerning a protected structure that is a place of public worship. For the Church of Ireland this is the Historic Churches Advisory Committee of the RCB.

To prevent the workings of the Architectural Heritage Protection provisions of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 2000 becoming a concern or burden on parishes, Diocesan Councils should feel free to contact the Historic Churches Advisory Committee for advice and assistance should they be contemplating endorsing any changes to or works on their churches which are Protected Structures. Works may include changes or alterations to the building, its curtilage, interior, fixtures, fittings or decoration.