Heritage Designation Advice

Information On the Various Heritage Designations

There is a wide range of heritage designations in use in Ireland, intended to protect the 'most important' aspects of our heritage. These are often referred to by specialists by their initials and this use of abbreviations and acronyms can be a source of confusion to many. A further source of confusion is reference to British designations, such as 'listed building' for what is known in Ireland as a 'Protected Structure'. This section is intended to clear up some of this confusion.

Heritage designations can conveniently be dealt with as falling into three main fields, based on who is responsible for identifying, designating and protecting them and the sort of heritage that they cover:

  • Natural heritage (includes pNHAs, NHAs, SACs, SPAs, Ramsar sites)
  • Archaeological heritage (dating from prior to 1700) (includes recorded monuments, national monuments, RMP/SMR)
  • Architectural heritage (dating from after 1700) (includes Protected Structures, sometimes referred to as 'listed buildings', architectural conservation areas (ACAs), designed landscapes (parks and gardens)

Sometimes Architectural and Archaeological heritage are grouped together as 'built' heritage or, less desirably 'cultural' heritage.

Who designates what?

Natural (including geological) and archaeological heritage sites are identified and designated by national bodies e.g. staff of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. These bodies inform the planning authority (the relevant council) about the sites they propose to designate and the planning authority adds these sites to its development plan. The Councils have no say in which sites are designated.

The elected members of the planning authority are responsible for the designation of protected structures, under the Planning and Development Acts, on the advice of council staff and staff of the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. The councils (the elcted members) also designate Architecural Conservation Areas (ACAs).

Additional Information on the various heritage conservation designations