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O’Brien mulls protected structure regime change

Words: Roger Milne

Minister for housing and local government Darragh O’Brien believes a review of the planning regime for historic buildings is both overdue and needed to make it easier for people to live in the middle of towns and cities.

In an interview in the Irish Times this week he highlighted that many older buildings in urban areas have been designated as “protected structures” with very strict obligations on local authorities and owners to ensure their character is preserved.

The provisions of Part IV of the Planning and Development Act provide that any proposed structural change within the area of a protected structure – including garden buildings and outhouses – require planning permission. This also includes the interior features and structures of such buildings, which typically date from the Georgian or Victorian eras.
The minister said the preservation orders on older heritage buildings in Ireland are such that they need to be treated “almost like a national monument”.

He argued that that preservation orders in Ireland were inflexible compared to the listed building regime in the countries of the UK . He said the current law was a disincentive for people to move back to live in urban centres. He stressed that initiatives to encourage living in cities were an important part of the government’s plans and he wanted a more nuanced approach to preserving historic properties. O’Brien revealed that the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland had recently produceda  helpful paper on the issue.


“We can actually change things pretty quickly on that. I am looking at things, potentially, within our cities including certain derogations to let that work happen. We need people living in our towns and cities.”

A spokesperson for his department told The Planner: “The minister is very supportive of the need to protect our older buildings while also recognising that we need to make smart use of our upper levels and above shops in our cities otherwise they lie vacant and fall into disrepair.” In the interview, which the minister has tweeted,O’Brien also suggested that if the previous government’s controversial co-living strategy was to survive, it would be in a much more modified form.

“I am not a fan of co-living and don’t support it [as a permanent solution],” the Dublin TD said, adding that he would conclude a review of co-living soon and bring his recommendations to cabinet.