Joint statement to the Dáil Select Committee Stage of the Planning and Development Bill 2023 with
reference to the impact of the provisions of the Bill on the built heritage of Ireland
An Taisce
Dublin Civic Trust
Dublin Democratic Planning Alliance
Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland
International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS Ireland)
Irish Georgian Society

The signatories to this statement are organisations that have a commitment to the stewardship of our architectural and built heritage. In accordance with the Burra Convention, we view conservation as the management of change that allows our heritage to be passed on to future generations.

The Planning and Development Bill 2023 proposes a wide range of fundamental changes to the planning system that will have an impact on the tangible and intangible heritage of our country. We wish to draw the attention of the legislature to some of our common concerns about the contents of the Bill as they relate to this heritage.

  • As heritage is generally valued on locality, identity, community and civic engagement, we are concerned that the thrust of much of the Bill towards centralisation of planning powers could pose a threat to that stewardship.
  • Due to what we perceive as the emphasis on economic development, we think that the Bill might pose a threat to the built heritage, where it may be seen as an impediment to development, rather than a major economic asset that must be protected.
  • This threat is exemplified in the ability for National Planning Policies and Measures to override Regional and Local Development Plans with very few safeguards or provisions for oversight in place, which could easily lead to development that undermines the integrity of heritage.
  • Similarly, the provisions in the Bill relating to the use of protected structures for housing could devalue heritage. Bringing protected structures into sensitive reuse for housing is desirable, provided that the heritage and character of the building is maintained.
  • We do not think that the Bill improves the Enforcement process, the lack of which has led to many heritage assets being lost or eroded. We do not see that it addresses the lack of resources for local authorities to engage successfully in enforcement action.
  • We note that some of the provisions in the Bill for Material Contraventions to Development Plans will inevitably lead to development which, as well as damaging the architectural and built heritage, will exclude sites from the potential to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
  • We do not think that the Bill addresses the issues of dereliction and vacancy, which are the causes of much loss of heritage assets.
  • We are concerned that, despite the Bill’s objective to move to a more plan-led system, it actually facilitates more discretionary decision-making, with decisions being made on a site by site basis, rather than in accordance with the plans made. This can be at odds with the policies, objectives and vision of a democratic, statutory development plan. The results of a discretionary system, as we have seen already, are that decisions are often unexpected and undermine the integrity of the heritage of an area.
  • The provisions in the Bill concerning access to justice and holding power to account drastically reduce the ability of the public to so do. This not only could undermine the protection of our heritage but also contravenes Ireland’s obligations under the Aarhus Convention.
  • The failure to revoke Section 28(1)(c) in this Bill is a lost opportunity to reduce the influence of lobbyists in the planning system. Introduced in 2015, this made Specific Planning Policy Requirements (SPPRs) mandatory for planning authorities. It forced them to ignore statutory development plans and resulted in incongruous decisions which
    threaten the physical context of our built heritage. The continuation of these mandatory rules in the Bill as National Planning Policies and Measures will continue that threat.
  • The threats to our tangible heritage due to climate change have not been adequately addressed in this Bill.

Download the joint statement here.