Protected Structures – Ireland

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIreland is renowned worldwide for its rich architectural heritage and high number of protected historical structures. In this article we will discuss what a protected structure is and how it is identified and assessed in Ireland. We will look at the responsibilities the owner or resident of a protected structure has and the restrictions faced when renovating the property.
Farmleigh, Fingal
Image provided by The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

What is a Protected Structure?

A protected structure is any structure which is considered by the the local planning authority to be of special interest from an architectural, archaeological, historical, artistic, cultural, technical or scientific point of view. All protected structures must be listed on the Record of Protected Structures (RPS) to qualify as a protected structure under Part IV of the ‘Planning and Development Act 2000’. If a property is on the RPS, the protection extends to the interior of the property as well as to the lands and curtilage (the land and outbuildings immediately surrounding a structure which is or was used for the purposes of the structure).

When a property is recorded on the RPS it is legally protected from harm, and all future developments are strictly controlled by the planning control process.

Record of Protected Structures

There are three stages a property must go through to be included on the record of protected structures:

Identification – A local planning authority has a number of ways to identify protected structures:

  • Many properties on the record of protected structures were “listed” for protection under previous legislation. All of these properties were automatically included.
  • The planning authority can carry out a survey to determine whether there are structures in the area which should be added to the register.
  • The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (a unit within the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht) produce records of the Heritage of Ireland. These surveys are shared with the planning authority in the area the survey was carried out. The Minister of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht can recommend structures be added to the RPS but it is up to the individual planning authority to decide if it should be added.
  • Any individual can write to a planning authority to have a building included on the record of protected structures The decision whether or not to included the structure is with the officials in the local planning authority.

Assessment – The local planning authority officials decide whether or not a particular old building should be included on the record of protected structures by identifying features of special interest under the following headings; architectural, archaeological, historical, artistic, cultural, scientific and social. The assessment is neutral and objective.

Notification – If the planning authority has decided to include an historic building on the record of protected structures it must first inform the owner and resident of the building that the property is a “proposed protected structure”. The property will then have the same protection as a property which is on the register. The planning authority must then inform the minister of the Heritage Council, Arts Council, Fáilte Ireland and An Taisce of the proposed inclusion. All details of the proposal must be put on public display for 6 weeks, or for 10 weeks during the making of a development plan. During this time anyone, including the owner or resident of the proposed structure, can make submissions to the planning authority. The submissions must be taken into account when voting on the proposals. A decision must be made within twelve weeks of the end of the public display period and the owner and resident must be notified within two weeks. If a planning authority decides to take a building off the register they must follow the same procedure.


Huntington Castle
Image Provided by the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage

Obligations of Owners and Residence – Legislation Ireland

Owners and residents of protected structures are legally required to ensure that the structure does not become endangered through neglect, rot or damage.

Old houses may fall into disrepair if they do not receive regular maintenance i.e cleaning out gutters and downpipes, repairing leaks in the roof etc. A building survey to assess the condition of an old building could reveal hidden problems and save an owner a lot of money in future costly repairs.

If a protected structure becomes endangered, the planning authority may serve a notice to the owner/resident to carry out necessary repairs. Works must be done within 8 weeks of receipt of the notice. The planning authority may also serve a notice of “Restoration of Character” which could necessitate the owner/resident to remove, change or replace, parts of the structure specified under the notice. Owners/residents can make written representations to their local planning authority in respect to the terms of the notice. They may for example request more time to raise funds for the works. The council must take the submissions into account when making their final decision. The planning authority’s decision may be appealed to the district court within two weeks of the last contact with the planning authority If a notice is ignored – in the case of an endangerment or restoration of character notices, the planning authority may carry out the works themselves and recover cost from the owner/resident. Under the ‘Planning and Development Act 2000’ there are penalties for owners/residents who endanger structures or fail to carry out works. Fines of up to 1.27 million and/or a prison term of up to 5 years can be imposed.

Waterford - Waterford Bishop's Palace, Waterford CROP



Bishops Palace, Wicklow
Image provided by the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage

Planning Permission

Planning permission may be required to carry out works on a protected structure, which would normally be exempt from planning. If you are the owner/resident of a protected structure you can write to your local planning authority for a declaration under section 57 of the ‘Planning and Development Act 2000’. This declaration states what works can be carried out without the permission of the planning authority. You can take a case to An Bord Pleanála if you disagree with the declaration.

For larger works the normal planning permission procedure applies. Extra information may be required e.g. extra photos, maps or statements as to how the planned works may affect the character of the protected structure.

All photographs in this post were kindly provided by the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage follow this link for more information.


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