From Declan Breathnach, TD  1st June 2016

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to introduce an incentive scheme for persons for the upkeep of protected structures. [11546/16]

From Minister Heather Humphreys, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53 and 58 together.

My role, as Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht, with regard to the protection and management of our architectural heritage, is set out in the provisions of relevant legislation, as are the role of local authorities and the responsibilities of owners as regards heritage assets.

With regard to the provision of incentives, as the Deputy can appreciate the scope for funding for the conservation of the built heritage is currently constrained by the significant demands on public finances within the context of a recovering economy that is facing a challenging national and international environment.

Financial support is being provided by my Department through a number of structured schemes for the conservation and protection of heritage buildings. My Department operates a Structures at Risk Fundto enable conservation works to heritage structures, in both private and public ownership that are protected under the Planning and Development Acts and are deemed to be at significant risk of deterioration. This fund is administered through the local authorities and seeks to encourage the regeneration and reuse of heritage properties and to help to secure the preservation of protected structures which might otherwise be lost. Applications for this scheme have now closed for 2016 and recommended projects are currently being finalised.

I launched a new €2 million scheme – the Built Heritage Investment Scheme– for the repair and conservation of protected structures on 21 October 2015. This scheme will operate in 2016, via the local authorities, on the same model as the very successful Built Heritage Jobs Leverage Scheme, which ran in 2014. It is expected to support a significant number of projects across the country and to create employment in the conservation and construction industries, while helping to regenerate urban and rural areas. The scheme for this year is now closed for applications.

The terms and conditions for both these schemes can be found on my Department’s website at www.ahg.gov.ie.

The Heritage Council, which my Department funds, also provides grants for the protection and preservation of the built heritage. For 2016, the Council is administering a community based heritage grants scheme available for projects that contributed to particular heritage themes. Further details can be found at www.heritagecouncil.ie.

I also consider applications for determination under Section 482 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. Under the terms of the Act, owners and/or occupiers of approved heritage buildings and/or gardens can apply for tax relief in respect of expenditure incurred on repair, maintenance and restoration, on condition that they open to the public. In order to be approved for this relief, a building/garden must be intrinsically of significant scientific, historical, architectural or aesthetic interest and reasonable access to the property must be afforded to the public.

Late last year, I launched an Action Plan for Irish Historic Houses in privateownership. The objectives of the plan will be to assist historic houses in general with their on-going protection, management and promotion into the future. Nine key actions form the backbone of the plan and its successful delivery will require the coordinated work of private owners, government Departments, local government and agencies. I am open to considering introducing further instruments to protect our national built heritage, but these must be considered within the overall context of the current economic situation and the need to prioritise the demands on public finances.

The remainder of my Department’s built heritage capital budget for 2016 will be focused on the conservation and presentation of the State’s heritage portfolio, which is managed by the Office of Public Works.