This brief introduction is a practical guide to understanding the protection of structures of special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest under the Planning and Development Acts, and the Planning and Development Regulations.
Under new arrangements which came into operation on 1 January 2000, the system of listing buildings has been replaced with strengthened procedures for the preservation of protected structures and structures in architectural conservation areas (we briefly covered these last week). Other historic structures may alternatively, or in addition, be protected under the National Monuments Acts 1930 - 2004.
A protected structure is a structure or part of a structure that a planning authority considers to be of special interest from an architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical point of view. Details of protected structures are entered by the authority in its Record of Protected Structures, which is part of the Development Plan. The owner and/or occupier of a protected structure are legally obliged to ensure that no danger is caused to the structure. This obligation applies from the time when an owner or occupier is notified of a proposal to include a structure in the Record of Protected Structures (at which time the structure becomes a "proposed protected structure").
The obligation to preserve a protected structure applies initially to all parts of the structure, including its interior, all land around it, and any other structures on that land and their interiors. The obligation also applies to any exterior or interior fixtures and fittings of a protected structure or of any structure on land immediately within its curtilage. If a declaration is sought, the planning authority can clarify which, if any, parts of the structure or its surrounding curtilage are not of special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest, and therefore do not require special protection.
A structure becomes a protected structure when it is included in the Record of Protected Structures compiled by the planning authority. You can check with your planning authority if you would like to know if a structure is protected or proposed for protection.
A planning authority must follow certain procedures if it proposes to deem a structure to be a protected structure. These involve notifying the owners and occupiers of the structure and certain interested bodies of the proposal and also notifying the public by means of a newspaper advertisement. The owner or occupier of the structure, along with any member of the public, is entitled to make comments on the proposal to the authority. These comments are taken into account before the planning authority’s elected members decide whether or not the structure should become a protected structure.
An owner or occupier of a protected structure must ensure that the structure or any element of it is not endangered. Endangering a structure can mean either directly or indirectly damaging the structure, or any element of it, by neglecting the structure to such an extent that it is damaged
For a protected structure, exempted development works can only be carried out without planning permission if the works would not affect the character of the structure or any element of the structure that contributes to its special interest. You may seek declaration from the planning authority as to the type of works which would or would not materially affect the character of the structure and which would or would not require planning permission.
In the case of some structures where the decorative condition is of special interest, planning permission could be required for interior decorating such as plastering or painting.
So how does someone know what they can and can’t do? An owner or occupier of a protected structure may request the planning authority to issue a declaration regarding the structure and its curtilage. This will indicate the types of works that could be carried out without affecting the character of the protected structure or any element of the structure which contributes to its special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social and technical interest, and those which cannot. Works which are normally exempt and which do not affect the character of the structure would not require planning permission.
However, owners or occupiers who carry out such works without a specific exemption in a declaration from the planning authority do so at their own risk. An owner or occupier may request a declaration from the planning authority at any time, even where no works are contemplated.
A declaration is issued to the owner or occupant of a protected structure free of charge on application. A local planning authority will issue such a declaration within twelve weeks of receiving a request. It will be necessary for an official of the authority to carry out a detailed inspection of the structure. The applicant for a declaration may be asked to state the extent of the property in their control, and to submit a drawing or map outlining its extent. Although the declaration is available to be inspected at the planning office, no information of a sensitive nature will be included in the record available to the public.
A planning application involving a protected structure is made in the same way as any other planning application. However, because of the sensitivity of most protected structures to inappropriate works, a planning application for works to a protected structure will be generally required to be more detailed.
There any measures in place to assist owners and occupiers to preserve a protected structure? A scheme of grants is operated by county councils and borough councils, to assist the owner or occupier of a protected structure to undertake necessary works to secure its conservation. The standard amount of grant is 50% of the approved cost of works, up to a maximum of €13,000. A planning authority may, at its discretion, vary this amount downwards or, in exceptional circumstances, upwards, subject to a maximum allowable grant of 75% of the approved cost of works, or €25,000, whichever is the lesser. Any grant greater than €13,000 requires the prior approval of the Department of the Environment and Local Government.
Planning authorities have special powers in relation to protected structures:
It may require an owner or an occupier of a protected structure to carry out works if it considers that the structure is or may become endangered or if it considers that character of the structure ought to be restored.
It may acquire, by agreement or compulsorily, a protected structure if it considers that this is desirable or necessary in relation to the protection of the structure. Compensation may be payable.
Any person who damages a protected structure or proposed protected structure commits an offence. It is also an offence to undertake any work to a protected structure which requires planning permission without obtaining that permission.