In support of the Town Centre First: a policy approach for Irish towns (2022), the Historic Towns Initiative (HTI) is a joint undertaking by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Heritage Council which aims to promote the heritage-led regeneration of Ireland’s historic towns.
Aims of the Scheme
The Historic Towns Initiative 2024 aims to provide support to historic towns engaged in a programme of heritage-led regeneration. In 2024 we are particularly interested in projects that address residential vacancy in town centres, that propose the re-use of historic structures and that can act as a demonstrator for future projects. We will continue with two funding Streams for the HTI 2024.
What works are considered for funding under this scheme
Under Stream 1 this year we are seeking proposals for capital works to repair and enhance the heritage of the town through heritage-led regeneration projects designed and implemented by local authorities, projects that encourage private owners and/or occupiers to invest in appropriate conservation-led works and repairs, projects that address dereliction and residential vacancy, the conservation of landmark buildings, streetscape conservation projects, and conservation-led public realm works which encourage investment from other sources. Applications must show how they will build resilience in the historic built environment of the town to enable it to withstand the effects of climate change. Match funding of 20% is required from the local authority or owners under Stream 1.
As set out in the Housing for All (2021) policy we are particularly interested in proposals to bring vacant or underused floor area in historic buildings back into residential use. Grants which specifically address residential reuse by encouraging private owners and/or occupiers to invest in appropriate conservation-led works and repairs and to bring vacant floor area in historic buildings back into residential use may be phased over two years, i.e., 2024 and 2025, subject to a maximum award of €350,000 in total per town.
Successful applicants should check their Letter of Offer for details of how funding is to be spent over the two years, where applicable. This letter will include contractual, procurement and governance conditions.
Under Stream 2 this year, we will support applications to deliver a heritage-led regeneration plan (please see above for details of the HTI framework) which will examine the existing heritage of a town and determine what conservation focused interventions are required. The resulting plan should ultimately inform future grant applications. Under Stream 2 we will award up to €50,000 per town for heritage-led regeneration plans. Match funding of 20% is required from the local authority under Stream 2. Individual local authorities may apply for Stream 1 and Stream 2 projects.
A webinar will be held by the Heritage Council on Thursday 25th January 2024 for local authority personnel interested in applying for the HTI 2024. Registration will be available soon.
Download the information booklet below in pdf or keep reading down the page for further information.
A total fund of €2 million (capital funding) is available to local authorities under the HTI 2024. A 20% minimum matching contribution will be required (please see below). The extent of matching resources will be taken into account in the assessment of applications.
Operation of the HTI 2024
- The HTI 2024 will be administered by the Heritage Council, as advised by the HTI National Steering Group.
- Each local authority may apply for one Stream 1 and one Stream 2 project for funding under the HTI 2024 for historic towns in their functional area. Applications will only be accepted from local authorities.
- The programme is intended to support a small number of towns in 2024. Funding will be allocated on a competitive basis, in accordance with the assessment criteria set out below. It will not be possible to support all applications in this round.
- Applications will be assessed by the HTI National Steering Group which will make recommendations to the Board of the Heritage Council for funding under the programme.
- In the case of Stream 1, priority will be given to applications that are ‘plan-led’, i.e. in line with a HTI Management Plan based on the HTI framework, or a Conservation Plan, or a Public Realm Plan, or eligible actions from a Town Centre Health Check Plan, or equivalent.
- It is expected that local authorities will work with a range of partners in delivering Stream 1 or 2 HTI 2024 projects and evidence of such partnerships, for example., letters of support, should be included with any application.
- Funding for each successful town in Stream 1 will be in the region of €150,000 -€350,000, depending on the projects proposed. Applications should reflect the scale of the likely funding available and the identified actions should be achievable within the allocated funding timeframe, i.e. in 2024. Applications under Stream 1 which specifically address residential vacancy as per Housing for All may project spending over 2024-2025, and such applications should set this out.
- Projects funded under the HTI should show strong public engagement. Social media should be used to promote events where members of the public are invited to learn about the project, and if possible to take part. Examples of how this might be done include demonstrations, traditional skills training, community or NGO management, or encouraging under-represented groups to take part or to share their heritage. It is expected that successful towns will hold an event about their projects during Heritage Week 2024. However, it should be noted that any grant awarded by the HTI can be used to fund Stream 1 and 2 capital works only.
The application process for HTI 2024
Each local authority is invited to apply in respect of one historic town (with an indicative minimum population level of 1,500 inhabitants) in their functional area where a programme of suitable heritage-led regeneration projects (Stream 1) or the need for a heritage-led regeneration plan (Stream 2) has been identified by the local authority, working with a town partnership team or local steering group.
Applications should succinctly set out:
- the significance of the town and its heritage
- any relevant policies and objectives for the town in the County Development Plan
- the town’s track record to-date in heritage-led regeneration, such as the involvement of an Architectural Conservation Officer and/or Heritage Officer in the local authority area in which the town is located
- the vision for the town as set out in any relevant management plan, conservation plan, public realm plan, etc.
- the project(s) that would be funded under the HTI and how these would promote heritage-led regeneration within an Architectural Conservation Area (ACA) and/or the wider town
- partnerships for the delivery of the HTI project(s) including any letters of support, etc.
- the extent of matching funding and contribution-in-kind proposed
- leadership, i.e., a named coordinator within the local authority responsible for the successful delivery of the programme
A demonstrable track record in caring for the historic environment of the town will be a distinct advantage. Works should support the creation of vibrant and attractive places where people will want to live, work, visit and invest. Conservation works in the historic urban core should encourage private sector and community confidence. Applications will be scored under the following criteria:
- The extent to which private owners and/or occupiers or community groups will bring and keep vacant or underused floor area in historic buildings in use (in particular residential use) and address dereliction and vacancy (30%)
- The town’s track record to date in heritage-led regeneration, the extent to which the application fulfils the aims of the HTI, and is likely to make a significant contribution to the heritage-led regeneration of the town (20%)
- The quality of the project(s) proposed (20%)
- How the project would build resilience in the historic built environment of the town to enable it to withstand the effects of climate change (15%)
- The presence of a vibrant and engaged community who would support the implementation of the Initiative (15%)
What towns are eligible?
Almost all Irish towns are historic in origin. A town seeking to benefit from the HTI should possess significant cultural and heritage assets and have a distinctive sense of place. Historic towns include those of medieval and pre-medieval foundation, plantation towns, planned estate towns and those established around local industries.
Urban centres designated as Special Regeneration Areas under the Living City Initiative are not eligible to apply.
What works are eligible?
- Capital works to repair and enhance the heritage of the town in line with a programme assessed by the HTI National Steering Group and approved by the Heritage Council. This may include:
- Heritage-led regeneration projects meeting the criteria set out above which are designed and implemented by local authorities
- Projects that encourage private owners and/or occupiers to invest in appropriate conservation-led works and repairs and to bring vacant floor areas in historic buildings back into use
- Projects that address dereliction and vacancy, the conservation of landmark buildings, improved maintenance and general improvements to streetscapes and conservation-led public realm works that encourage investment from other sources
- Projects that would build resilience in the historic built environment of the town to enable it to withstand the effects of climate change
- All grant-aided work under the HTI must respect the character and special interest of individual buildings and the heritage of the town in general.
- Works must be in accordance with best practice principles contained within the Architectural Heritage Protection Guidelines for Planning Authorities (2011) and relevant volumes in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage’s Advice Series.
- All statutory requirements for the protection of heritage must be met – including natural, archaeological and architectural heritage.
- Where grant funding is sought for the conservation and re-use of vacant buildings, information shall be provided on a sustainable proposed future use.
How to apply
Applications will only be accepted from local authorities. Each local authority may apply for funding for one historic town in their functional area. Applications must be made via the Heritage Council online grants management system. Hard copy or emailed applications will not be accepted.
What happens next?
- A webinar will be held by the Heritage Council on Thursday 25th January 2024 for local authority personnel interested in applying for the HTI 2024.
- The deadline for receipt of online applications is 5pm on Friday 16 February 2024. Applications received after this date will not be considered.
- The Heritage Council will notify applicants of the outcome of the assessment following Board approval in early March 2024.
Recoupment of Grant Funding
Grant awards must be recouped from the Heritage Council within the 2024 calendar year (Except for the projects that are approved to run over 2 years). Funds not claimed at the end of the year will be forfeit.
Works must be completed and verified by the local authority before grant funding can be recouped. A report detailing the works carried out must be signed by the Architectural Conservation Officer or Heritage Officer or a member of the local authority’s professional staff with oversight of the project. This must be accompanied by proof of payment i.e., a signed letter from the Director of Finance and relevant Director of Service stating that monies claimed have been expended.
Value Added Tax (VAT) is allowable under this scheme only for that portion of capital works being funded and only in circumstances where such VAT is not recoverable under this scheme by any other means.
Recoupment is via the online payments process on the Heritage Council’s online grants management system. The date for submission of final claims and reporting to the Heritage Council is Friday 02 November 2024.
Matching funding requirement
Matching funding of at least 20% of total project expenditure is required for each project funded.
Where a building is in local authority ownership the requirement for 20% matching funding can be met from local authority financial resources. In-kind contributions (for example., the salaried time of publicly funded personnel) from the local authority can be cited as a contribution but this should only be in addition to matching funding (i.e., in-kind local authority contributions cannot make up the minimum of 20% matching funding). Confirmation of matching funding approval is required from the local authority at Director of Service level at the application stage.
Where a HTI project is also funded under other grant schemes financed by the Exchequer or the EU, the cumulative total of such funding must not exceed 80% of the total project cost. Any HTI grant funding provided to a local authority that is subsequently recovered from the owner/occupier under the provisions of the Planning and Development Acts must be refunded to the Heritage Council.
There will be a requirement for interim progress reports. Where sufficient progress is not evident in these reports, the Heritage Council, on the advice of the HTI National Steering Group, reserves the right to reallocate funding to other approved HTI projects.
Heritage Council publication Ballybrilliant: heritage-led regeneration in 5 Irish towns (2018)
Information on case studies can be found in the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland publication Creating Vibrant Places: the RIAI town and village toolkit and in the publication Old House, New Home
Our urban centres contain a large amount of underused building stock. The sensitive reuse of such floor space at ground level and on upper floors should be encouraged. In relation to this, attention is drawn to the publication Bringing Back Homes: Manual for the reuse of existing buildings