The built heritage of Cork city is finite. The building forms, the shapes of the street and quays and the historic spaces of the City combine to give it its celebrated unique expression of Cork through the centuries. There are several distinctive architectural styles to Cork city including the iconic merchants’ houses with external steps to the first floor entrance, the many bow fronted buildings, slate hung facades and camber-arched windows. Structures and areas within the city have acquired character over time and in addition to having cultural significance are important resources in keeping our city attractive and with a true identity in a rapidly changing society.
We have a duty to protect, conserve and sensitively use our historic buildings to ensure they are ensure that they are passed onto our successors with their value intact. Built heritage is protected in two ways:
1) The Record of Protected Structures
2) Architectural Conservation Areas
Cork City Council maintains a Record of Protected Structures, which currently includes 1,200 (approximately) buildings of historic, architectural or other significance.
A Protected Structure is a building, which is identified by Cork City Council as having special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest. Cork City Council has compiled a list of these buildings on the ‘Record of Protected Structures’ which is contained in the Cork City Development Plan.
When a building is designated a Protected Structure it is then protected under Part IV of the Planning and Development Act 2000. This means that owners and occupiers must ensure that the 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.
So what is allowed? Under Section 57 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, the carrying out of works to a protected structure, or a proposed protected structure, shall be exempted development only if those works would not materially affect the character of the structure or any element of the structure which contributes to its special architectural, historical, archaeological, cultural , scientific or technical interest. This can mean that the replacement of original windows or doors can require planning permission. However, it’s important to re-assure owners and occupiers that there is considerable scope to make changes (e.g. installation of new services, new bathroom/kitchen fittings etc) without affecting the special character. The features of a house that make it of special interest are generally those that make it attractive – plasterwork, historic joinery, the sense of history of a well-built old house.
The Conservation Officer in the Planning Department is always happy to answer any query you may have.
It is important to note the Planning Authority may add a new record to or delete a structure from its Record of Protected Structures during the review of its Development Plan or at any other time, by following different prescribed procedures. The making of an addition to or deletion from the Record is a function that is reserved to the Elected Members of the Council.
The designation of historic areas as Architectural Conservation Areas (ACAs) under Section 81 of the Planning & Development Acts is a way to protect the character of Cork's historic areas. The aim is to protect their special characteristics and distinctive features while encouraging suitable contemporary development.
Under Section 82 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, the carrying out of works to the exterior of a structure located in an architectural conservation area shall be exempted development only if those works would not materially affect the character of the area. External works, including new development, that would affect the character of the area will require planning permission. This can mean replacing the windows or doors, changing historic paving or replacing ironwork railings can require planning permission. Repair or refurbishment which does not materially affect the external character will not require planning permission. Often the best way to ascertain what is exempt or not is to consult with the Conservation Officer in the Planning Department.
The list and description of each ACA is contained in Volume 3 of the Cork City Development Plan.