Under the Planning and Development Act 2000-2010, a planning authority must include an objective in its development plan to preserve the character of a place, area, group of structures or townscape if it is of the opinion that its inclusion is necessary for the preservation of the character of that area. Such an area is known as an Architectural Conservation Area (ACA) and it is defined as a place, area, group of structures or townscape that is of special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest or contributes to the appreciation of protected structures.
Reasons for Designating an ACA
An ACA is designated in recognition of the special character of an area where individual elements such as building heights, building lines, roof lines, materials, construction systems, designed landscapes, public spaces and architectural features combine to give a place a harmonious, distinctive and special quality which merits protection.
Protecting the special character of such areas is important as this serves to reinforce the identity of areas, local towns and villages, recognises our cultural and architectural heritage and contributes to the attractiveness of these areas as places in which to live and work. From an economic perspective, Ireland’s heritage is a key element of the tourism experience. It draws visitors here and is a significant part of what they enjoy once they are here.
In acknowledging the architectural and historic significance of our towns and villages throughout the county by designating Architectural Conservation Areas, the primary aim is to provide for change while protecting character. In this way it is accepted that Architectural Conservation Areas are not open-air museums but living communities that will inevitably continue to develop and change.
The aim of the planning process in managing development within ACAs is therefore to focus on ensuring that future development is carried out in a manner sympathetic to the special character of that area.This is achieved by giving particular consideration to the impact of proposed development on the character of the ACA, in order to achieve a balance between the need for change and the objective of retaining the special qualities for which the area was designated.
What needs planning permission?
The protection of an ACA relates to the external appearance.
As an ACA includes the rear of buildings and the open spaces most works to the outside of a building or structure in an ACA will need planning permission.
If, for example you proposed to build a small extension, change the roof materials or windows, install a roof-light or satellite dish, form a parking space, strip off plaster, or erect signage you will probably need permission.
Planning permission will not be needed for works to the interior unless it involves a change of use. Normal repair and maintenance work will not require permission, unless it uses materials or details which are not appropriate to the structure. For the avoidance of doubt, detailed advice can be obtained from the Planning Authority in relation to details, methods and materials in advance of work starting.
Links to PDF guidance documents: