ANGRY county councillors have moved to block the addition of any new buildings to the local list of protected structures, criticising “ludicrous”, “restrictive” and “insensitive” heritage rules.
The move comes after the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht recommended that 460 buildings in the county receive protected status and be recorded in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Local councillors have grown increasingly hostile towards the listing of buildings in recent months, which places significant restrictions on development without providing conservation grants to owners, due to a lack of funding.
A motion by Cllr John Sheahan calling for an embargo on new additions to the existing list of 1,600 protected structures passed at a meeting at County Hall this Monday. However senior planner Gerry Sheeran stressed that built heritage cannot be taken for granted. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone”, he warned.
Cllr Sheahan originally asked that the council give at least 12 weeks’ notice when it intends to have a property listed. Cllr Sheahan cited the “quite insensitive” fact that residents of Hamilton Terrace in Glin first found out that the council planned to list their properties through a report in the Limerick Leader last month.
Cllr Sheahan said that many people traditionally allowed their property to be listed because it would entitle them to conservation funding, however this is no longer the case. “People are led to believe that funding is available. The opposite is true”.
Cllr Liam Galvin said that listing buildings creates “a total nightmare” for property owners. He cited the example of Maiden Street in Newcastle West, where “there are birds flying out of windows” of protected structures that are subject to development restrictions.
“No one in their right mind would allow their property to be put on this list ... people are not aware of what happens afterwards,” Cllr Galvin added.
Cllr Stephen Keary said that the addition of 460 buildings at the request of the department without an engineering assessment of each property is “absolutely ludicrous”, while Cllr Patrick C Fitzgerald said that conservation rules are “too restrictive”.
Cllr Sheahan reiterated that the listing of buildings “is one of the few reserved functions of Limerick County Council”, and that the final say whether or not structures are protected lies with councillors.
Gerry Sheeran, senior planner, said that there are approximately 1,600 protected structures in county Limerick, and that a further 460 are due to be added to the inventory of architectural heritage.
Even if this goes ahead, Mr Sheeran said, “less than 3% of dwellings” in county Limerick will be listed. “It’s very, very important. It’s the built heritage of Limerick. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
He said that there are 200 thatched cottages in county Limerick, while there are “only 150 in all of Northern Ireland. We’re very, very lucky to have 200.”