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Sources Of Funding For Period Houses

Owners of period properties are conscious of the immense privilege and enjoyment to be derived from their homes. Indeed many view their role as one of custodian; acting as a guardian of Ireland's built heritage. However the maintenance and conservation of a period property can place considerable financial burden on owners. It is in response to this that a number of funding initiatives have been established by both governmental and non-governmental organisations. Admittedly these sources of funding are limited, and it is hoped that more substantial financial assistant will be available in future. For now however there are three main sources of funding available to owners of period properties: local authority conservation grants; Heritage Council Building at Risk grants; and Section 482 tax relief. What follows is a practical guide to these sources of funding, detailing when and how to apply.


Local Authority Grants

Since May 1999, in anticipation of the introduction of the Planning and Development Act 2000, central government has provided local authorities with funds to administer conservation grants. Known as the Grants for the Conservation of Protected Structures scheme, your period property will need to be listed for protection on the Record of Protected Structures in order to be eligible. Unfortunately on account of budget constraints local authorities are unable to award grants to all applicants.

The standard amount of a grant is 50% of the cost, subject to a maximum of 13,000 euros. In exceptional circumstances a local authority may make a grant in excess of 13,000, however no grant can exceed more than 25,000 euros or 75% of the approved cost. Grants for less than 1,900 euros are not eligible.

To apply for a Grant for the Conservation of a Protected Structure contact your local authority and ask for the Explanatory Memorandum and the Grant for the Conservation of a Protected Structure Application Form.

You will be obliged to accompany your application form with supplementary documentation, such as a site location map; detailed cost breakdown of works; photographs of the present condition of proposed works; copy of planning permission, fire safety certificate or other statutory approval already obtained; tax certificate clearance; and most importantly a method statement for the works. The more complete the documentation the better.

Getting your method statement right is crucial. Your method statement should indicate that works will be conducted using traditional methods and materials, appropriate to the structure, its history and condition. Local authorities will look to see that your method statement adheres to the methods and standards of conservation detailed in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government's Conservation Guidelines of 1996. Unfortunately these excellent and informative booklets are currently out of print but plans are in the pipeline for their re-issuing. In the interim you may download them from the Department's website; www.environ.ie

As local authorities are allocated resources on an annual basis this means that works need to be the subject of application, approval and payment within a single tax year. Consequently to be considered for a grant for next year you will need to apply to your local authority not later than the 31st of January 2009.


The Heritage Council

Another excellent source of funding for owners of period properties is the Heritage Council. The Heritage Council is an independent statutory body established under the Heritage Act 1995 to help ensure the identification, protection and preservation of Ireland's heritage, both built and natural. As part of this work the Heritage Council runs several grants schemes, which are all part funded by the National Lottery. The grant scheme relevant to owners of period properties is the Council's Buildings at Risk Scheme, which has an annual budget of 1.3 million.

If a grant is awarded it can cover up to 50% of the project cost and can be used in conjunction with grants from other sources. Most Buildings at Risk grants are between 1,000 and 20,000, depending on the overall cost submitted, but larger amounts are sometimes available in special cases. Your period property does not need to be listed on the Record of Protected Structures to be eligible for a Building at Risk grant.

The aim of the scheme is to safeguard buildings, which are at serious risk, but are not yet in a ruinous state. Currently the Heritage Council is only considering grants for works to roofs.

The Heritage Council's grants programme is run on an annual basis and grants are considered an entire year in advance of being awarded. All the Buildings At Risk grants for 2009 have already been awarded. To be eligible for consideration for a grant towards the repair costs of your period property in 2010, you need to complete the Buildings at Risk Survey form between 25th October 2009 and the 31st March 2009.

This will result in your historic house being placed on the Heritage Council list of Buildings at Risk. The Heritage Council will then notify you in April 2009 of whether your period property has been selected as a priority project for funding in 2010 and further information on your building and the proposed works will be requested. After assessment if your application is successful, a formal offer of funding will be made in January 2009

You can then proceed with the work. The Heritage Council cannot fund works that begin before the formal offer is made. Grants must be used in the year in which the offer is made, as the Council cannot roll over funding.

To apply for a Building at Risk grant, you need a Survey Form for Buildings At Risk List and The Heritage Council Grants Programme booklet. Both can be obtained by contacting the Heritage Council's Grants Administrator Amanda Ryan at The Heritage Council, ¡ras na hOidhreachta Church Lane, Kilkenny City. Tel: 056 7770777/Fax: 056 7770788.  Email: mail@heritagecouncil.com.  Website: www.heritagecouncil.ie

The Heritage Council is also responsible for administering the REPS 4 Traditional Farm Buildings Grant Scheme on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food.  An annual fund of one million euros has been allocated over the next seven years.  The grant scheme seeks to protect traditional farm outbuildings that are in agricultural use.  Farmhouses, residential or domestic buildings are not eligible for funding.  Only farmers on the REPS 4 scheme are eligible to apply. The grant is available for the conservation of the exterior appearance of farm outbuildings, including roof, wall, window and door repairs. Only essential repairs that conserve the character of the building or ensure its weatherproofing will be considered. Conservation works to additional features such as historic yard surfaces, walls, gate pillars and gates and millraces, will be considered if they are part of the overall project to repair a building. This grant scheme does not cover works to the interior of buildings.  The grant will be for not more than 75% of the cost of the works. The minimum amount offered will be Ä5,000 and the maximum, Ä25,000. The closing date for receipt of applications is in April annually.


Section 482

Although not a grant, the governmental Section 482 is another mechanism, which can facilitate owners of period properties with conservation works to their homes. Under Section 482 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, owners and/or occupiers of approved buildings (and gardens) can apply for tax relief in respect of expenditure incurred on repair, maintenance or restoration, on the condition that they open their building to the public.

Commendably Section 482 not only allows owners of period properties to offset their tax against expenditure incurred in the repair, maintenance and restoration of their property, but also expenses incurred in the installation, maintenance or replacement of a security alarm system and in the provision of public liability insurance. Needless to say tax relief is not available in respect of expenditure recoverable through grants.

In order to avail of Section 482 your period property does not need to be listed on the Record of Protected Structures, however it does need to become what the government terms an 'approved building'. An approved building is one in respect of which determinations have been made by the Minister of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that it is a building which is intrinsically of significant, historical, architectural or aesthetic interest, and by the Revenue Commissioners that reasonable access to the building is afforded to the public.

So how does an owner of a period property go about obtaining these 'determinations'? The first step is to contact the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DEHLG). They will provide you with an application form.

Your application form will then be referred to the Principle Architect of the Office of Public Works (OPW). An OPW architect will then conduct a site visit to your period property to ensure that indeed it is intrinsically of significant, historical, architectural or aesthetic interest and that all works proposed do not diminish this special interest. If the OPW inspector is satisfied with the above you will be issued with a DEHLG determination.

Your next step is to obtain a Revenue Commission determination. This will be issued once the Revenue Commission is satisfied that reasonable access is afforded to the public to your period property. You will need to fill out an S.B.1. Form and return it to the Revenue Commission with supporting evidence that the minimum public access and advertising requirements are met. The public access requirements are that access must be for a minimum of 60 days per calendar year, including 40 days between 1st May - 30th September (of which 10 days must be Saturdays or Sundays); daily viewing times must be at least 4 hours and that admission price, if any, must be reasonable. There are various other requirements as well concerning advertising and display of information. For instance owners must agree to be included in the Failte Ireland's annual booklet of Section 482 properties.

The Section 482 is a valuable scheme, however intended participants should be mindful that there is provision in the legislation for the Revenue Commission to revoke a determination made where applicants default on any of the conditions, for example that the property does not remain open to the public for a period of five years after claiming tax relief. This means that any tax relief granted to a claimant in the previous five year may be clawed back by the Revenue Commission.

To obtain the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government form contact Paul McNally (4117148), Marian Ryan (4117146) and Mark Kehoe (4117164) at the DEHLG, Dun ScËne, Harcourt Lane, Dublin 2. Web: www.environ.ie To obtain the Revenue Commission Form S.B.1. contact Ann Doneghan (6475000) or Eileen Duffy (7024101) at Office of the Revenue Commissioner, Direct Taxes Interpretation and Internal Division, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2. Email: eduffy@revenue.ie Web: www.revenue.ie. The Revenue Commission Form S.B.1 is available on line, as is the Section 482 explanatory leaflet 'IT30' and the list of properties availing of Section 482. This list is also published in hard copy and is available from Failte Ireland free of charge.

The DOEHLG also administers a Thatching Grant. Contact the Housing Grants Section, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Government Buildings, Ballina, Co. Mayo. Tel: 096 24200 or Locall 1890 305030 and ask for a HA2T Memorandum and the HA1/90 Application Form.

Owners of period properties who are able to demonstrate that they intend to adhere to best conservation practice will augment their prospects of receiving a grant. So it is essential to identify a crafts person with expertise in traditional building skills, who is prepared to undertake the work. One way of achieving this is to consult the Irish Georgian Society's Traditional Building and Conservation Skills- Register of Practitioners. This is an on-line database of all disciplines involved in the conservation of Ireland's built heritage.

The Irish Georgian Society would strongly urge the involvement of a conservation architect. The Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland has recently established a conservation accreditation process, which makes the identification of an architect with conservation experience a relatively simple process. (Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, 8 Merrion Square, Dublin 2./Tel: 6761703/Fax: 6610948/Website: www.riai.ie/ Email: info@riai.ie.) Another useful register is the list of specialist Heritage Contractors accredited by the Construction Industry Federation. (Construction Industry Federation, Construction House, Canal Road, D. 6. Tel: 01 4066000/Fax: 4966953/Email: cif@cif.ie Web: www.cif.ie)