The Legal Context
The following is a brief guide to these forms of legal protection or support available to structures that have architectural heritage value.
A number of forms of protection are provided for in the new legislative framework for the protection of the architectural heritage, consolidated in Part IV of the Planning and Development Act, 2000. This embeds the protection of the architectural heritage such as protected structures and architectural conservation areas in the practice of land use planning.
Buildings and areas must have character and ‘special interest’ to be protected. ‘Special interest’ is broadly defined in the Act. It encompasses architectural, artistic, archaeological, cultural, historic, scientific, social and technical interests. Planning authorities must protect structures or areas where they have special interest.
Areas of Special Planning Control
Areas of Special Planning Control (sections 84 to 92 of the Act) allow a planning authority to ‘enhance’ the character of Architectural Conservation Areas of special importance to ‘the civic life or the architectural, historical, cultural or social character of a city or town’.
Protection for ancient and historic monuments, now closely aligned with the practice of archaeology, emerged in the 19th century with a growing interest in the surviving ruins that are to be found everywhere in the Irish landscape. The National Monuments Acts, 1930 – 2004, provide several protective mechanisms for sites and structures of historic, archaeological or architectural value. These include the Record of Monuments and Places, the Register of Historic Monuments, Preservation Orders (and Temporary Preservation Orders), and Ownership and Guardianship of selected sites by the State, through the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Office of Public Works.
Section 10 of the Heritage Act provides that certain buildings may be made Heritage Buildings at the request of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
S.482 Taxes Consolidation Act
Although not a protective mechanism, this section of the tax code allows for the recognition of certain buildings and gardens as of National Importance. It also provides for off-setting owners’ income tax against expenditure on the maintenance of the property.