What is a protected structure?
A protected structure is a structure that a planning authority thinks is of special interest from an architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical point of view.
If a planning authority thinks a structure meets this criteria, the structure must be listed on the planning authority’s Record of Protected Structures (RPS). All structures listed on the RPS qualify for protected status under the Part IV of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Each planning authority must keep a RPS as part of its development plan.
When a structure is included in the RPS it means that:
- Its importance is recognised
- It is legally protected from harm
- All future changes to the structure are controlled and managed through the development control process (for example, planning permission) or by issuing a declaration under Section 57 of the Planning and Development Act 2000
If a structure is included in the RPS, the protection covers:
- The inside of the structure
- The land in its curtilage. Curtilage means the land and outbuildings immediately surrounding a structure which is (or was) used for the purposes of the structure
- Any other structures on that land and their interiors
- All fixtures and features forming part of the interior and exterior of the protected structure or any structure on the grounds attached to it
Is there funding available to conserve and repair protected structures?
If you own or live in a protected structure, you are legally obliged to prevent it becoming endangered, whether through damage or neglect.
The Historic Structures Fund and the Built Heritage Investment Scheme provide grants to help you repair protected structures and care for architectural heritage.
What is the Historic Structures Fund?
If a protected structure you own needs urgent repairs, you may be able to get a grant under the Historic Structures Fund (HSF). The Historic Structures Fund has 3 streams:
- Stream 1 offers grants from €15,000 up to €50,000. These grants are for essential repairs and smaller capital works to refurbish and conserve heritage structures. Local authorities can also apply for funding for the conservation of historic shop fronts and historic Irish language shop fronts under Stream 1.
- Stream 2 offers a small number of grants from €50,000 up to €200,000. These grants are for larger enhancement, refurbishment or reuse projects involving heritage structures.
- The Vernacular Structures Stream offers funding of between €5,000 and €10,000 for projects aimed at conserving vernacular structures that are not already protected. Vernacular structures are informal buildings or built features that were made by everyday people, but now have cultural significance, for example, buildings made using thatching, mud-walling or wattle-working.
The Historic Structures Fund can also be used to care for historic structures and buildings in public ownership, and to improve recreational infrastructure and public access to these heritage sites. These projects are selected by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage and are run in partnership with State-funded organisations, such as the Office of Public Works or the Irish Heritage Trust.
How to apply for a Historic Structures Fund grant
The local authorities administer the Historic Structures Fund. So, to apply you complete the application form and send it to your local authority. You must apply by the deadline set by your local authority. In 2024, this deadline must be before 27 January 2024. There is a Guidance Application Form and a Checklist for Applicants to help you apply.
If you have questions about the Historic Structures Fund, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has information in their Guidance Booklet for Applicants and their Guidance Circular for Local Authorities. You can also contact your local authority if you have questions about the scheme.
What is the Built Heritage Investment Scheme?
The Built Heritage Investment Scheme (BHIS) provides grants to help repair and conserve structures that are protected under the Planning and Development Acts. It also helps to conserve structures in Architectural Conservation Areas.
The BHIS is aimed at privately owned properties that need repair and conservation. Projects that incorporate a traditional skills training element may also be supported by this fund.
You can get a grant of between €2,500 and €15,000 for small-scale works to repair and preserve your historic property. There is also specific funding for conservation repairs to historic thatched buildings.
How do I apply for a Built Heritage Investment Scheme grant?
The local authorities administer this scheme. So, to apply you complete the application form and send it to your local authority. You must apply by the deadline set by your local authority. In 2024, this deadline must be before 27 January 2024.
If you have questions about the grant or need help applying, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has additional information in their Guidance Booklet for Applicants and their Guidance Circular for Local Authorities. You can also contact your local authority if you have questions about the scheme.
You can only apply for one BHIS grant per historic structure. You cannot get funding under the Historic Structures Fund and the Built Heritage Scheme in the same year.
How does a structure become a protected structure?
A structure must be listed on the planning authority’s Record of Protected Structures (RPS) to qualify for protected status. Planning authorities must include every structure that they think is of special interest in their area on the RPS.
The planning authority can add and delete structures from its RPS when reviewing its development plan or at any other time. There are 3 steps before a structure can be added to the RPS:
- Identifying possible protected structures
- Assessing if a structure is of special interest
- Notifying people about the proposed protected structure
Identifying possible protected structures
There are a number of ways a planning authority can identify structures for protection:
- A planning authority can carry out a survey of its area to determine if there are structures that should be added to the RPS.
- The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) compiles records of Ireland's architectural heritage. It provides planning authorities with details of surveys of their area. NIAH surveys may be used by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to make recommendations on structures to be added to the RPS. It is up to the planning authority to decide if any of the structures recommended should be included in the RPS.
- The Minister can also make recommendations to a planning authority to include individual structures in the RPS.
- Anyone can write to a planning authority to recommend a structure for protection, but the decision to include it in the RPS can only be made by the elected members of the planning authority.
Assessing if a structure is of special interest
A planning authority decides if a structure should be included in the Record of Protected Structures (RPS) by identifying characteristics of special interest under the following headings:
The assessment process should be impartial and objective.
Notifying people about proposed protected structures
If a planning authority is considering including a structure on the RPS, it must:
- Notify the owner and occupier that the structure is a ‘proposed protected structure’. (The structure will have the same protection as a structure already on the RPS while you are waiting the final decision of the planning authority.)
- Inform the Minister of the proposed addition, along with a number of organisations, including the Heritage Council, the Arts Council, Fáilte Ireland and An Taisce.
- Display details of proposed additions to the RPS in public for at least 6 weeks. During this time anyone can comment on the proposal. These comments will be taken into account when the planning authority decides if the structure should become a protected structure.
The decision to list a structure in the RPS must be made within 12 weeks of the end of the display period. The planning authority must notify the owner and occupier of the structure of their decision within 2 weeks.
How is a structure removed from the RPS?
If a structure is to be deleted from the list, the same process must be followed. Details of the structure proposed for deletion must be displayed in public and any comments or objections must be taken into account by the elected members of the planning authority when making their decision.
The process to add or delete a structure from the RPS is set-out in the Planning and Development Act 2000.
What are my responsibilities if I own or live in a protected structure?
If you own or live in a protected structure you are legally required to make sure that the structure does not become endangered through neglect, decay, damage or harm. If a structure is kept in habitable condition and has regular maintenance it should not become endangered. Regular maintenance might include cleaning out gutters, repairing missing slates, or repainting external timberwork.
What happens if my protected structure is endangered?
If a protected structure is endangered, the planning authority can serve a notice on you, requiring you to carry out any work that it considers necessary to protect the structure. The work must be done within 8 weeks of the date of the notice.
The planning authority can also service a notice requiring the ‘restoration of character’ of the protected structure. This could include removing, changing or replacing any parts of the structure specified in the notice.
If you don’t agree with the notices or can’t comply with them, you can make written representations to the planning authority about the terms of the notices. You can request more time or financial help to comply with them. In many cases, you may qualify for a conservation grant to help you comply.
The planning authority will take these representations into account when making their final decision. If you are not satisfied with the response, you can appeal against these notices to the District Court. You must do this within 2 weeks of your last response from the planning authority.
What happens if I ignore notices about a protected structure?
If you ignore a notice from the planning authority about preventing a structure from becoming endangered, the planning authority can take enforcement action. The planning authority can carry out the work itself and recover the costs of the work from you.
In exceptional cases, the planning authority may buy the protected structure from the owner, either by compulsory purchase or by agreement. This would only be done if the planning authority considered it the only way to save a protected structure.
Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, there are penalties for owners or occupiers of protected structures who endanger the structure or who fail to carry out work that has been ordered by the planning authority. If they are found guilty, they could be liable for fines of up to €12.7 million and/or a term of imprisonment of up to 2 years.
Do I need planning permission for work on a protected structure?
You will need planning permission if you want to do work on a protected structure that would materially affect its character. This means that many types of work, which in another building would be considered exempted development, may not be exempted if the building is a protected structure. Depending on the nature of the structure and the features of interest, even work such as painting the interior or replacing windows could affect its character and need planning permission.
You should contact your local authority, if you are unsure about what work will need planning permission for your particular building. You can apply to your planning authority for a declaration under Section 57 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 about your structure. This declaration states what types of work can be carried out without affecting the character of the structure.
A declaration cannot exempt any works which would otherwise require planning permission. A planning authority will issue this declaration within 12 weeks of receiving a request. There is no fee for this service. You can take a case to An Bord Pleanála if you disagree with the declaration.
You must apply for planning permission in the usual way if more extensive work is planned. However, you will need to include more detail, such as drawings, photographs or any other material necessary to explain how the proposed alterations would affect the character of the structure.
The newspaper and site notices for the planning application must state that the structure is a protected structure. You should check with your planning authority to find out what additional information they need when applying for planning permission on a protected structure. If your planning authority refuse planning permission, you can appeal this decision to An Bord Pleanála.
If you are getting work done on your protected structure, there is useful information in the Architectural Heritage Protection Guidelines for Local Authorities. [DW1] These are statutory guidelines for planning authorities, but they are also useful for owners of protected structures. There are also practical advice leaflets on topics such as energy renovations in traditional buildings (pdf) and repairing historic windows (pdf).
How to apply
If you want to recommend a structure for protected status or if you have any questions about your protected structure, you should write to your planning authority's Conservation Officer or the planning department of your local authority.
Further information is also available from: