23 Sep 2008
Perusing (via the internet) planning applications received by a random selection of local authorities in the first half of the year, I was struck by how few applications involved ‘Protected Structures’ (listed buildings) and how, of this number, fewer still were brought to any kind of completion. So what are the country’s Local Authority Conservation Officers doing with their new found time?

Well, I know that, of those Conservation Officers not on extended leave, part of their time is spent dealing with planning applications for structures which aren’t ‘listed’ at all but which they decide to take an interest in, anyway.

Some, however, (given their presumably reduced work load these days) surprisingly can’t take time out of their schedules to make pre-planning consultations, return telephone calls or answer emails. County Kildare has been mentioned in this regard on more than one occasion.

What’s going on? Well, for one thing, I understand that some Conservation Officers have been feeling the pressure to ‘to appear busy’ in order to have their contracts renewed (as far as I know, all Local Authority Conservation Officers are on temporary contracts) – which may in some way explain why they’re sometimes tricky to track down. But, does anyone know how the contract renewal process works? Is the decision taken at local authority level, or does the Department of the Environment have a role in it? (emails welcome)

Meanwhile…

… life is such a different game if you’re a player.

I hear that Bernard McNamara’s development company, Radora, is taking Dublin City Council to court because the Council has decided to ‘list’ Llandaff Terrace, a row of houses right next door to the massive new development Bernard has just completed in Elm Park. The terrace, which looks sort of okay-ish (it wouldn’t be listed in any other country), is on a site owned by one of McNamara’s companies and listing the structures would have a huge impact on future development potential.

Well, apparently, a couple of years ago (when Dublin City Council and Bernard McNamara were still good friends, i.e. before the O’Devaney Gardens situation) the Council gave a commitment to McNamara that only two of the houses would be listed. Now it appears the Council has changed its mind – it wants all five – and McNamara says they’re breaking an agreement.  

But, hang on a sec: nothing – nothing – in the planning legislation says you can go around doing deals on Protected Structures. Either a building deserves to be put on the Record of Protected Structures because of its architectural or historic importance or it doesn’t. The Listing of buildings is a matter of public interest, not a negotiating tool for big builders.

The problem is that we don’t have a proper system in place for assessing whether or not buildings should be listed – no public hearings, no reports, no points-scoring systems, no independent adjudications. Unless you’ve seen it happen, you wouldn’t believe how haphazardly a building can find itself on the RPS. Its little wonder, then, that a situation like the one Llandaff Terrace can come to pass.

Anyway, thanks to the McNamara/Dublin City Council falling out we now know that deal making on the listing of buildings is going on.

The whole issue of building conservation in this country is a scandalous, scandalous, scandalous, scandalous mess. Nothing, absolutely nothing about it is clean.     

Tuesday, 23 September 2008 18:40:56 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Protected structures...
There were two pretty Victorian hexagonal (or octagonal ?) letterboxes in Bray; one on Sidmonton Avenue and another on Main Street facing the Town Hall. These were listed for preservation under the 1993 Bray Development Plan (table 4.6B, item 70), the 1999 Bray Development Plan (Schedule 8, item 68), the 2005 Bray Development (Draft) Plan (Table 8.3 item 38) - don't have access to the 2005 BDP as adopted so cannot confirm if the item was included therein.
In August 1999 the Main St. box suffered vehicle impact damage (it was sited at the footpath edge on a curve) and was "repaired", wait for it, with parcel tape!!! It remained thus for two or so months with no apparent attempt at restoration, removal for safe keeping or anything else.
It was eventually shifted off street to God knows where and being out of sight is now out of mind. So much for "Protected Structures" in Bray's care. Is it worth while contacting Taisce - it is certainly a waste of time raising the matter with Bray Town Council and that's for sure! Regards, Seamus O Dunlaing
seamus o dunlaing
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