Frequently Asked Questions

The following guidance (source) is intended as a practical guide for the owners/occupiers of a historic building. It is not a definitive legal interpretation of planning law. For further information, contact us or you should consult with your local authority.


What is a protected structure?

A protected structure is a structure that a Local Authority considers to be of special interest from an architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical point of view. Details of protected structures are entered by the Authority in its Record of Protected Structures, which is part of the Development Plan. Each owner and occupier of a protected structure is legally obliged to ensure that the structure is preserved.

What parts of a protected structure must be preserved?

The obligation to preserve a protected structure applies to all parts of the structure, including its interior, all land around it, and any other structures on that land. The obligation also applies to all fixtures and fittings forming part of the interior of a protected structure or of any structure on land around it.

How does a structure become a protected structure?

If immediately before 1 January 2000 a structure was listed for preservation or protection in a development plan, that structure automatically became a protected structure on that date. Otherwise, a Local Authority must follow certain procedures if it proposes to deem a structure to be a protected structure. These involve notifying the owners and occupiers of the structure, the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht, the Islands, and other bodies of the proposal. An owner or occupier is entitled to make comments on such a proposal to the authority. These comments are taken into account before the authority's elected members decide whether or not the structure should become a protected structure.

What obligations fall on owners and occupiers to ensure the preservation of protected structures?

Each owner and occupier must ensure that a protected structure or any element of a protected structure is not endangered through harm, decay or damage, whether over a short or long period, through neglect or through direct or indirect means.

Do special procedures apply to protected structures under the planning system?

Yes. Under the planning system, many minor works to structures do not normally require planning permission. These works are known as exempted development. However, for a protected structure, such works can be carried out without planning permission only if the works would not affect the character of the structure or any element of the structure that contributes to its special interest. Depending on the nature of the structure, planning permission could, for example, be required for interior decorating such as plastering or painting. A declaration from the local authority is necessary as to the type of works which would or would not materially affect the character of the structure (see section below).

How does an owner or occupier know which works require planning permission?

An owner or occupier of a protected structure may request the local authority to issue a declaration indicating the types of works that could be carried out without affecting the character of the structure or any element of the structure which contributes to its special interest. These works would not require planning permission. A local authority will, in general, issue such a declaration within three months of receiving a request.

How does an owner or an occupier apply for planning permission to carry out works to a protected building?

A planning application involving a protected structure is generally made in the same way as any other planning application. However, additional information must be submitted with the application and the relevant newspaper and site notices must indicate that the application relates to a protected structure.

Are there any measures in place to assist owners and occupier to preserve a protected structure?

Yes. A number of schemes are available:-

What is an Architectural Conservation Area?

An architectural conservation area is a place, area, group of structures or townscape which is of special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest or contributes to the appreciation of protected structures. This could include, for example, a terrace of houses, buildings surrounding a square, or any group of buildings which together give a special character to an area. An architectural conservation area may or may not include protected structures. Planning permission must be obtained before significant works can be carried out to the exterior of a structure in an architectural conservation area.