By Sinéad Hughes, Head of Conservation at Carrig Conservation
It dawned on me the other day that what I’ve always referred to as the “new legislation” is now 20 years old and that it’s probably time I should stop calling it that.
The new legislation that I’m talking about is Part IV of the Planning & Development Act, 2000, which had initially come to life as the Local Government (Planning & Development) Act, 1999. Carefully crafted with the intention of strengthening architectural heritage protection in Ireland, Part IV’s sections detailed the obligations of local authorities and custodians in relation to architectural heritage, provided for protected structures (rather than listed buildings) and allowed for the designation of Architectural Conservation Areas.
Part IV opens with Section 51 which outlines that a local authority must maintain a record of protected structures to include every structure of “special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest.” The eight headings or categories of special interest listed within S51 would allow a planning authority, professional advisors and custodians to clearly define the intrinsic value of a structure and understand why it may warrant protection.
Following the enactment of the legislation, the government produced an invaluable publication called Architectural Heritage Protection – Guidelines for Planning Authorities which put flesh onto the bones of the law and gave practical examples of structures that are significant under the above headings. The book became a standard go-to for planners, conservation officers and consultants alike and it has earned its keep in the reference section of the Carrig bookcase.
Figure 1 An inlaid granite pedestal with surmounting figure at Powerscourt, Enniskerry. This structure is of architectural, historical, artistic and social interest.
Figure 2 Just off Dublin’s Nassau Street at the Setanta Centre is a mural panel by Desmond Kinney, 1974. The piece, which depicts scenes from The Táin, is of historical, artistic, cultural, social and technical interest
Figure 3 The industrial heritage structures erected at Bohernabreena Reservoirs are of architectural, historical, technical, social, and scientific interest.
Figure 4 A Free State post box beside Drumcondra Church. The SÉ emblem stands for Saorstát Éireann. Dating from between 1922 and 1937, the post box is of historical, artistic and social interest.
The “new legislation” (sorry, I can’t change its name now) with its eight interest categories has influenced the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage’s selection of structures and sites within their county surveys and has led to the enrichment of the country’s Records of Protected Structures. No longer are the lists solely populated by grander buildings such as country houses, churches or court houses, but instead include a more comprehensive schedule of built heritage comprising vernacular houses, road bridges and industrial buildings and structures. One of our principal services at Carrig is to produce conservation reports and architectural heritage impact assessments for clients who wish to apply for planning permission for protected structures. A vital component of each report is the statement of significance which outlines why a structure is important. In preparing these statements, we turn to the special interest categories listed in the Planning & Development Act, 2000 (as amended) to ensure that we can produce an accurate evaluation of the structure in hand. We also consider the categories when designing repair strategies and specifications so that any changes we recommend will respect, preserve or even rehabilitate the features and fabric that may contribute to a structure’s special interest. In my opinion, the “new legislation” – albeit two decades old at this stage – has served our country well and has helped to strengthen and promote architectural heritage protection across the land. We’d love to hear from you on this, so please let us know if you’d agree or if you think any of Part IV’s elements could do with tweaking.