The Irish Georgian Society has sent the following letter to Minister Heather Humphreys, Dept. of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht, in response to yesterday's budget:
The Irish Georgian Society wishes to make the following observations on the Budget 2015 and on the Estimates for Public Services 2015.
Living Cities Initiative
The Irish Georgian Society welcomes the announcement that discussions with the European Commission on the Living City Initiative are at an advanced stage and that, subject to approval, it will be introduced in the cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway and Kilkenny in early 2015. The Irish Georgian Society has previously made submissions to the Department of Finance and to Indecon Economic Consultants on this Scheme and I have enclosed a copy of a letter submitted to Indecon as part of their consultation process. This sets out the Society’s position relating to the eligibility of buildings, the proposed sub-division of buildings and the determination of the cost of works and we would hope that consideration is given to these matters in devising the terms of the initiative.
Built Heritage Jobs Leverage Scheme
The Irish Georgian Society noted with regret that no provision has been made in the Estimates for Public Services 2015 for a continuation of the Built Heritage Jobs Leverage Scheme. When announced, this much welcomed scheme was intended to “allow for urgent repairs on protected heritage buildings to take place across the country, improving our heritage stock, adding to Ireland's attractiveness as a place to live and work, and generating employment in the construction and skilled crafts trades” (Minister Jimmy Deenihan, Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht: Select Sub-Committee on Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Estimates for Public Services 2014, 21st January 2014). Over the course of this year, the Scheme was considered an effective way of providing support for those working in the built heritage sector which, according to the Heritage Council report Economic Value of Ireland's Historic Environment, constitutes approximately €755 million or 4.2% of total national construction output.
Ireland’s built heritage forms an integral part of its national patrimony, and as its preservation greatly enhances urban and rural areas, the Irish Georgian Society is of the view that the provision of public funding through grant programmes is more than justifiable. It should also be noted that protected structure owners face a legislative requirement to maintain buildings and onerous penalties for failing to do so adequately. Publicly funded grants such as the Built Heritage Jobs Leverage Scheme provide an incentive, or carrot, to facilitate owners compliance with this obligation.
The Irish Georgian Society appreciates the great pressures on public finances and that this has necessitated a very significant reduction in public funding on the built heritage in recent years. However, in the view of the Irish Georgian Society, the broad aspirations of the Built Heritage Jobs Leverage Scheme to encompass building conservation, job creation, and an improvement of the general environment provide good reason for its continuation into 2015.
The Irish Georgian Society would be grateful if full consideration is given to these observations and, if helpful, we would welcome an opportunity to discuss these matters with your Department.