An Bord Pleanála

Architectural Heritage Protection – Summary of the Guidelines for Planning Authorities


  • Background and Legal Framework
  • Chapter 2 – The Development Plan (Record of Protected Structures)
  • Chapter 3 – The Development Plan (Architectural Conservation Areas)
  • Chapter 4 – Declarations
  • Chapter 5 – Places of Public Worship
  • Chapter 6 – Development Control
  • Chapter 7 – Conservation Principals
  • Chapter 8 – Walls and other structural elements
  • Chapter 9 – Roofs
  • Chapter 10 – Doors and Windows
  • Chapter 11 – Interiors
  • Chapter 12 – Shop Fronts
  • Chapter 13 – Curtilage and attendant grounds
  • Chapter 14 – Non-Habitable protected structures
  • Chapter 15 – Enabling and Temporary works
  • Chapter 16 – Making good disaster damage
  • Chapter 17 – Alterations to Enhance Fire Safety
  • Chapter 18 – Improving access
  • Chapter 19 - Maintenance

Background and Legal Framework.

The legal framework upon which the protection of Architectural Heritage is based stems from UNESCO’s “Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage” drawn up in 1972 and ratified by Ireland in 1991 and the “ Granada Convention “ ratified by Ireland in 1997. The Granada convention in particular formed the basis for our national commitment to the protection of our architectural heritage. Following the ratification, the government has sought to conserve our architectural heritage through a series of comprehensive and legislative provisions. The legislative provisions introduced in the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 1999 which sought to introduce the conservation principals of care and protection and which facilitated the listing of significant buildings has been in essence replaced by Part IV of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Part IV contains the following features.

  • Planning authorities have an obligation to create a record of protected structures. This record forms part of the authority’s development plan.
  • Planning authorities also need to preserve the character of places and townscapes by designating them Architectural Conservation Areas.
  • Objectives for the protection of structures and preservation of the character of areas should be included in the authorities development plan.
  • Under the legislation, an owner or occupier of a protected structure may seek a declaration from the relevant planning authority to determine which works would materially affect the character of the structure and would therefore require planning permission.
  • When a structure is protected, it involves the structure, its interior and the land within its curtilage and all fixtures or features both interior and exterior.
  • Proscribed bodies, which include the Minister of the Environment, the Heritage Council, the Arts Council, Bord Failte and An Taisce, must be notified of any planning applications that would involve the carrying out of works on a protected structure or the exterior of a structure within an ACA.

According to Part IV of the Planning and Development Act 2000, planning authorities must take the following criteria into consideration when assessing planning applications involving protected structures or structures situated in an ACA area.

  1. All interventions must respect the physical, historic and aesthetic character of the structure by ensuring identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations.
  2. Emphasis should be placed on identifying and retaining the inherent nature of the structure. Older buildings in many cases are more durable and flexible in terms of their materials
  3. The application must be sympathetic with the architectural heritage yielding aesthetic, environmental and economic benefits where the original structure is no longer viable.

The conservation of Architectural Heritage is promoted through the establishment of the NIAH, a scheme of grants for protected structures, the employment of conservation officers in local authorities and statutory guidance. Section 52 (1) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 obliges the Minister to issue guidelines to planning authorities concerning development objectives (i.e. protecting structures, preserving ACA’s), while Section 28 of the Act requires planning authorities (including An Bord Pleanala) to have regard to them in the performance of their functions. These legislative guidelines are instrumental in forming the document.

Chapter 2 – The Development Plan (Record of Protected Structures).

Chapter two explains guidance on the preparation of the Record of Protected Structures (RPS) (Sections 51, 52, 53, 54 and 57 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000)

Note: A protected structure may be defined as a “structure” or a specified part of a structure, which is included in a record of protected structures and where that record so indicates, includes any specified structure, which is in the attendant grounds of the structure and which would not otherwise be included in this definition. (See section 2.2) In relation to a protected structure or proposed protected structure, the term structure will include (i) the interior of a structure (ii) the land lying within the curtilage of the structure (iii) other structures lying within that curtilage and their interiors and (iv) all fixtures and features which form part of the interior or exterior of any structure or structures referred to in (i) and (iii).

Chapter 3 – The Development Plan (Architectural Conservation Areas)

(Sections 81,82 & 83, Planning and Development Act 2000)

An ACA may be defined as an area where it is “an objective to preserve the character of a place, area, group of structures or townscapes, taking account of building lines and heights, that

  1. is of special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest or value or
  2. contributes to the appreciation of protected structures.

Identifying areas for protection

  • Boundaries of the ACA should make physical and planning control sense, clearly a reference must be made to the core characteristics to establish the boundary lines.
  • When assessing an ACA, consideration must be given to the settings of groups of structures on the character of the wider area.
  • If there is a potential conflict between the existing fabric and inappropriate use purposes, new zoning modifications may occur.
  • In an ACA, the carrying out of works on the exterior of the structure may be exempted development only if these works do not materially affect the character of the area.
  • Where new development is to be allowed in an ACA, a high standard of contemporary design may be encouraged.

Areas of Special Planning Control (Sections 84 and 87, Planning and Development Act 2000)

A special planning control scheme must be in writing and must be consistent with the objectives of the relevant development plan and any local area plan or integrated area plan (as set down in the Urban Renewal Act 1998).

  • It primarily provides powers to planning authorities to conserve the character of certain areas, through restoration and requiring owners to conform to a planning scheme. (See section 3.5)
  • ASPC only apply to cities and large towns.
  • Following the creation of a special planning control scheme, the planning authority must notify in writing the Minister of the Environment, An Bord Pleanala, the Heritage Council, An Taisce, The Arts Council, Bord Failte, Local Chamber of Commerce. (Section 85, P&D Act 2000).

Chapter 4 - Declarations (Section 57, Planning and Development Act 2000)

  • Declarations are used as a formal advice mechanism for the owner and occupier of a protected structure. Declarations are used when issues arise which require clarification in the form of a written notification from their planning authority.
  • Declarations can be issued to owners or occupiers of protected structures to permit specific works, which would not materially affect the character of the protected structure.
  • Declarations relating to places of worship are subject to special recommendations (s57 ACT).
  • According to s13 of the P&D Act, any person to whom a declaration has been issued under s57 (3) or a declaration reviewed under s57 (7) may refer the declaration to the Bord for review
  • Referral must be made within four weeks of the date of issue.

*It is important to note that section 57 of the P&D Act should not be confused with the former S 5.

Chapter 5 – Places of Public Worship (Guidelines issued under S52 (2) P&D Act in Nov 2003)

  • The guidelines suggest that when considering a Section 57 Declaration or an application for development to the interior, the legislation provides that the planning authority respect the liturgical requirements.
  • With regards to a declaration, it could mean that due to liturgical requirements some works may not require planning permission. The potential scale and impact of these works however needs to be considered on an individual basis
  • When issuing a declaration, planning authorities need to consider whether substantial changes are needed for proposed alterations. Any proposed removal; alteration/ destruction of important fixtures and fittings will require careful consideration.
  • The age, rarity and craftsmanship of the internal fixtures and fittings can contribute to the architectural coherence of the whole building.
  • Where works are proposed but not required liturgically the planning authority should respect the architectural heritage of the structure.
  • The redundancy of a place of worship is quite important. Proposals for change of use should be treated sympathetically. In the event of the protected structure being sold, consideration may have to be given to the removal of fixtures and fittings, which are of liturgical importance.

Chapter 6 – Development Control

  • A detailed application originally submitted or revised and/or clarified through submission of requested information should obviate the need for the attachment of extensive planning conditions to permission. However conditions where required need to be attached (s 6.7.2)
  • The demolition of protected structures is only permitted in exceptional circumstances (see section 6.7.3)
  • The removal of important or decorative elements should only be permitted where the development has indicated that these elements will be retained and possibly reinstated in the future.
  • It is often necessary to permit appropriate new extensions to protected structures to enable economic use, if planning permission is granted, it should result in the minimum loss of fabric.
  • Attempts should not be made to disguise new additions or extensions however care should be given to prevent adverse affects on the character of the structure or curtilage.
  • Where a structure has suffered from fire, it is important that the elements be retained.
  • Façade retention alone is rarely acceptable; exceptions may be a previous redevelopment.
  • If redevelopment is allowed then the emphasis should be placed on floor levels, room sizes and fenestration. (section 6.8.17 and section 6.8.18)
  • Planning authorities may not carry out works that would contravene their development plan
  • objectives.
  • Some classes of development carried out by the state authorities are not subject to the normal planning process. Consultative provisions and classes are specified in Part IX of the regulations.

Chapter 7 – Conservation Principals

  • Conservation may be described as a process of caring for buildings and places in such a way as to retain their character and special interest. Once lost they cannot be replaced. Damage may be caused to the character of a structure as much by over-attention as by neglect.
  • Entry onto the Record of Protected Structures does not mean that a structure is frozen in time. Good conservation allows a structure to evolve and adapt over time (section 7.2.2).
  • When a change of use is approved every effort should be made to minimise change to and loss of significant fabric and the special interest of the fabric should not be compromised.
  • Conjectural restoration of a protected structure or part of a structure should only be permitted where there is sufficient physical or documentary evidence of the earlier state of the structure or where restoration is necessary to enhance the appreciation of other elements that contribute to the character of the structure.
  • Works such as the replacement of doors, windows and roof lights, the provision of insulated dry lining and damp proofing to walls and basements, insulation to the underside of the slating and provision of roof vents and ducting of pipes could all affect the character of the structure.
  • Where mortar repairs are necessary specialists should carry them out and be appropriate to the fabric and appearance of the original stonework.
  • The stripping of existing render merely to expose rubble or brick walls should not be allowed.
  • The appearance of a protected structure will be materially altered by the removal of architectural features from walls such as balustrades and brackets.

Chapter 8 – Walls and Other Structural Elements.

  • The structural system of a historic building and its elements play a major role in defining its character. Structural elements are important in terms of identifying early examples of the use of certain materials such as cast iron or concrete.
  • When assessing the contribution of structural elements such as walls and other features in defining the character of a protected structure or an ACA, reference should be made to the various criteria as set down in section 8.1.4 of the guidelines.
  • The structural stability of a historic building generally requires the skill and experience of a specialist. Excavation or re-grading of ground levels adjacent to or within a protected structure could cause its foundations to settle or fail.

Chapter 9 – Roofs

  • Roofs of protected structures should retain their original form and profile and therefore should not be radically altered.
  • Architectural details are important features of the roof scape and their removal should in essence not be permitted especially if they are in good condition and capable of repair.
  • If a structure forms part of a unified terrace, the alteration or removal of roof details from that structure will adversely affect the character of the entire group (i.e. ACA’s).

Chapter 10 – Doors and Windows

  • Careful consideration should be given to proposals to alter openings in a protected structure or in any structure within an ACA.
  • It is important to identify and protect features of doors and windows that contribute to the special character of the protected structure.
  • Installation of modern replacement windows should not be permitted in a protected structure.
  • No attempt should be made to standardise fenestration. Surviving original proportions of glazing patterns should always be protected.
  • Replacement of sashes or entire windows should only be permitted where existing windows are missing, are decayed beyond repair or inappropriate recent additions.

Chapter 11 – Interiors

  • Repairs and Alterations should only be carried out in a manner appropriate to the individual element or structure and in a manner, which is readily reversible.
  • Large -scale removal of sections of joinery for the sake of convenience should be avoided. (see sections 11.3.4 and 11.3.5)

Chapter 12 – Shop fronts

  • A balance needs to be struck between the commercial requirements of the owners and the protection of shop fronts of special importance with an Architectural heritage context.
  • Design of a new shop front for installation, into a protected structure requires careful consideration and should not detract from the character of the rest of the building.
  • Elements of a new shop front should be appropriately scaled in relation to the building as a whole.

Chapter 13 – Curtilage and Attendant grounds (Article 51, 2001 Regulations)

The term curtilage is not defined in the act and has been a source of some problems. Its meaning is of significance because of the inclusion within the definition of the “structure” of the land lying within the curtilage of the structure. Attendant grounds may be defined in relation to the land lying outside the curtilage of the structure.

Points of particular salience to the Boards work

  • The planning authority has the power to protect all features of importance but these features must be specified in the RPS and owners/ occupiers need to be notified.
  • Proposals to remove or alter boundary features may affect the character of the protected structure and the designed landscape around it.
  • Designed gardens of protected structures are seen as an extension of the house.
  • If a formal relationship exists between a protected structure and its ancillary buildings. New construction that may interrupt that relationship should not be permitted.
  • Allowing separate use of the basement from the main building requires careful consideration as it can change the entire character of the structure.
  • When assessing a designated landscape, it is important to identify the historic layers of intervention that may exist and to respect the integrity of the site.
  • Proposals to move a protected structure of features within the curtilage or attendant grounds of a protected structure should only be permitted in exceptional circumstances.

Chapter 14 – Non-Habitable protected structures.

  • Non-habitable protected structures may pose different conservation problems to other structures because of the nature of their construction or use.
  • Where an application has been made to demolish or dismantle a protected structure that is a ruin, based on reasons of structural instability. The onus should be on the applicant to prove that the proposals are valid and all relevant matters have been properly addressed.
  • Works involving rebuilding or restoring a ruin has the potential to alter materially the character of a structure but are always preferable to demolition.

Chapter 15 - Enabling and Temporary works

  • Potential causes of damage should be considered by the planning authority when attaching conditions to a grant of planning permission in order to prevent or minimise damage to a protected structure as a result of building works. (see 15.3.1)
  • Planning authority should also ensure that expert advice be sought from qualified personnel to ensure that the structural stability will not become endangered during building works. If the protected site is of fragile nature the planning authority may require the applicant to submit designs for temporary works for approval in advance of any scaffolding or shoring.

Chapter 16 - Making good disaster damage

Chapter 16 deals with reinstatement issues.

Chapter 17 – Alterations to Enhance Fire Safety

  • If the fire officer advises that extensive or otherwise unacceptable works would be required, the planning authority may then request that the applicant submit a fire risk analysis to allow an assessment of the full impact of the proposed development on the structure.
  • Fire safety solutions should impact as little as possible on the important elements and fabric of the structure.
  • A flexible approach will be required when dealing with fire protection measures for historic buildings. In the Technical Guidance Document (B) of the building regulations, it is recognised that some variations will exist in the case of existing buildings.

Chapter 18 – Improving Access

  • Where intervention is unavoidable, permitted proposals should minimise the loss and alteration of the historic fabric. It should seek to protect the architectural integrity and special interest of the protected structure
  • The ideal solution would be to minimise the alteration of the original fabric and avoid works, which would have adverse affects on the structures character whilst improving access.
  • The conflict between access and conservation is most difficult to resolve at the entrance to the building (especially for wheelchair users). Principal entrance should be accessible but compromise may be needed.
  • The installation of an access ramp may not be an acceptable solution when dealing with buildings or ACA’s of high architectural quality and the applicant may have to explore alternative or more innovative solutions.
  • May be appropriate to allow the alteration or partial removal of steps, iron railings or plinths to allow access to wheelchair platform lifts or ramps.
  • Providing a passenger lift may be unacceptably obtrusive in a historic interior.
  • New elements such as lifts and ramps should be designed to respect the character and materials of the existing fabric. Contemporary designs should not be discouraged.

Chapter 19 – Maintenance (see sections 19.1 – 19.4)

Last modified: 12/12/2007

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