International Conventions & Legislation
Ireland has ratified several European and international conventions in relation to the protection of its cultural heritage. Outlined below are summaries of relevant conventions and legislation. Click on the headings to go to the source documents or relevant websites.
The Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006 ensures the protection of the archaeological heritage resource by requiring that all applications under this Act are accompanied by an EIS including information on material assets, including the architectural and archaeological heritage, and the cultural heritage.
This Directive requires that certain developments be assessed for likely environmental effects (commonly known as environmental impact assessment (EIA)) before planning permission can be granted. The EIA requirements under planning legislation in Ireland have been consolidated into Part X of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and Part 10 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001. When submitting a planning application for such a development, the results of the EIA are submitted as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Projects needing an EIS are listed in Schedule 5 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001. In the case of development which is under the relevant EIS threshold, planning authorities are required under article 103 of the 2001 Regulations to request an EIS where it considers that the proposed development is likely to have significant environmental effects. The decision as to whether a development is likely to have significant effects on the environment must be taken with reference to the criteria set out in Schedule 7 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001. In order to assist planning and other consent authorities in deciding if significant effects on the environment are likely to arise in the case of development below the national mandatory EIS thresholds, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government published a Guidance document in August 2003.
In 2002 Ireland ratified the European Landscape Convention – also known as the Florence Convention, which promotes the protection, management and planning of European landscapes and organises European co-operation on landscape issues. It is the first international treaty to be exclusively concerned with all dimensions of European landscape. The Convention came into force on 1 March 2004 and is part of the Council of Europe’s work on natural and cultural heritage, spatial planning and the environment. It applies to the entire territory of the ratified parties and relates to natural, urban and suburban areas, whether on land, water or sea. It therefore concerns not just remarkable landscapes but also ordinary everyday landscapes. The European Landscape Convention introduces the concept of “landscape quality objectives” into the protection, management and planning of geographical areas.
Under arrangements which came into operation on 1 January 2000 (The Planning and Development Act 2000), the system of listing buildings was replaced with strengthened procedures for the preservation of protected structures and structures in architectural conservation areas.
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 (RPS), 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.
The legislation obligates planning authorities to preserve the character of places and townscapes which are of special architectural, historic, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest or that contribute to the appreciation of protected structures, by designating them architectural conservation areas (ACAs) in their development plan.
The Act also provides comprehensive protection for landscapes including views, prospects and the amenities of places and features of natural beauty or interest under a local authority’s development plan. A development plan is required to include objectives for the preservation of the character of the landscape including the preservation of views and prospects. A planning authority may also designate, for the purposes of preservation, landscape conservation areas.
The Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) and Historic Properties (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, was promulgated in 1999 as a direct response to the Granada Convention. The Act provides for the establishment of a national inventory of architectural heritage for related matters and to provide for the obligations of sanitary authorities in respect of registered historic monuments. Although this Act provides no direct protection for architectural sites, it is used by local authorities to inform the compilation of their Record of Protected Structures which, under the Planning and Development Act 2000, does afford legal protection.
In 1997 the Republic of Ireland ratified the Council of Europe European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (the ‘Valletta Convention’). Obligations under the Convention include: provision for statutory protection measures, including the maintenance of an inventory of the archaeological heritage and the designation of protected monuments and areas; the authorisation and supervision of excavations and other archaeological activities; providing for the conservation and maintenance of the archaeological heritage (preferably in situ) and providing appropriate storage places for remains removed from their original locations; providing for consultation between archaeologists and planners in relation to the drawing up of Development Plans and development schemes so as to ensure that full consideration is given to archaeological requirements; making or updating surveys, inventories and maps of archaeological sites and taking practical measures to ensure the drafting, following archaeological operations, of a publishable scientific record before the publication of comprehensive studies and preventing the illicit circulation of elements of the archaeological heritage, including co-operation with other states party to the convention.
The basic principle which underlies the Convention is that the archaeological heritage is being seriously threatened by the number of major planning schemes and that the need to protect the archaeological heritage should be reflected in town and country planning and cultural development policies.
A number of amendments to the National Monuments Act resulted from the adoption of this convention. These changes included the restriction of use of detection devices, the controlling of archaeological excavations and where possible the preference for preservation in-situ rather than excavation. A number of conditions relating to the granting of licenses both for excavation and survey related directly to articles contained within this convention.
Also in 1997 the Republic of Ireland ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe (the ‘Granada Convention’). Obligations under this convention include: maintenance of inventories of architectural heritage; provision of statutory measures to protect the architectural heritage; the adoption of integrated conservation policies, which include the protection of the architectural heritage as an essential town and country planning objective; developing public awareness of the value of conserving architectural heritage etc…
The Granada Convention (1985) built on the policies and recommendations of the ICOMOS Charters. This convention has directly influenced Irish legislation. For example: the development of a national inventory of architectural heritage and statutory protection of that heritage. It also introduced the concept of integrated conservation through which conservation should be considered not as a marginal issue, but as a major objective of planning.
In an international context Ireland is a ratified member of The World Heritage Convention, adopted by UNESCO in 1972. The Convention provides for the identification, conservation and preservation of cultural and natural sites of outstanding universal value for inclusion in a world heritage list. The World Heritage status is a non statutory designation and no additional statutory controls result from this designation. However the impact of proposed development upon a World Heritage Site will be a key material consideration in determining planning applications.
The Convention aims to promote cooperation among nations to protect heritage around the world that is of such outstanding universal value that its conservation is important for current and future generations.
The World Heritage Convention was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in 1972. Currently, 186 countries (known as “States Parties”) have ratified the Convention, including Ireland in 1991. The Convention established the World Heritage List as a means of identifying that some places, either natural or cultural, are of such significance as to be the responsibility of the international community as a whole. By signing up to the Convention, States Parties pledge to conserve not only the World Heritage Sites in their territory but also to avoid deliberate measures that could damage World Heritage Sites in other countries. As such, the World Heritage List serves as a heritage conservation tool.
The Convention is overseen by the World Heritage Committee, which is composed of 21 countries elected by the States Parties. The Committee is supported by UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre in Paris , which advises States Parties on the preparation of site nominations, organises technical assistance on request and coordinates reporting on the condition of sites. It also coordinates emergency action to protect threatened sites and administers the World Heritage Fund.
World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.
Ireland currently has two properties inscribed on the World Heritage List:
- Archaeological Ensemble of the Bend of the Boyne, County Meath
- Skellig Michael, County Kerry
The following sites are listed in the WHC tentative List:
UNESCO seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.
The Venice Charter was created in 1964 as a statement of principles for the conservation and restoration of monuments and sites. It opens with the preamble:
“Imbued with a message from the past, the historic monuments of generations of people remain to the present day as living witnesses of their age-old traditions. People are becoming more and more conscious of the unity of human values and regard ancient monuments as a common heritage. The common responsibility to safeguard them for future generations is recognized. It is our duty to hand them on in the full richness of their authenticity”.
It is essential that the principles guiding the preservation and restoration of ancient buildings should be agreed and be laid down on an international basis, with each country being responsible for applying the plan within the framework of its own culture and traditions.
By defining these basic principles for the first time, the Athens Charter of 1931 contributed towards the development of an extensive international movement which has assumed concrete form in national documents, in the work of ICOM and UNESCO and in the establishment by the latter of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and the Restoration of Cultural Property”
Both Charters focus on monuments and sites ashore. Maritime heritage is not covered despite its close affinity. Therefore the 4th EMH Congress, meeting in Barcelona in 2001, resolved to adapt the Venice Charter for maritime heritage in Europe, to be known as the Barcelona Charter.