- Find out about the rules and regulations in relation to renovating a period property
- Get information, support and advice regarding the work that you need to do
- Investigate whether you are eligible for a grant
- Make adjustments to the property that will make it more suited to modern living
- Source the relevant tradespeople
Find out about the rules and regulations in relation to renovating a period property
When buying a period property, the solicitors for the vendor should inform you whether it is or isn’t a protected structure. Otherwise, you can find out by calling your local authority, who will be able to tell you if your house is listed on the record of protected structures. The local area planning officer will then come to your house within a three month time frame, do a brief survey, point out what features are original and then write up a report for the owner that will clarify what would or would not materially affect the character of the building and what adjustments would require planning permission under the provisions of the National Monuments Act.
Get information, support and advice regarding the work that you need to do
There is a plethora of organisations out there who cater to the needs of period property owners. The Heritage Council (Tel: 056 777 0777; web: www.heritagecouncil.ie) provide information in relation to national heritage structures and the regulations that pertain to them. The Irish Georgian Society (Tel: 01 676 7053; web: www.igs.ie) is concerned with promoting the conservation of our architectural heritage. Its website is an extremely valuable source of information relating to all aspects of owning a period property. Your local authority should be your first port of call in relation to confirming the exact status of your property, and the Department of the Environment (Tel: 1890 202 021; Web: www.environ.ie) can put you in contact with your local authority and give you general information. The Government has published a book called ‘Architectural Heritage Protecion: Guidelines for Planning Authorities 2004’ (€10) which contains valuable information in relation to policy and legislation, and ‘Period Houses: A Conservation Guidance Manual’ by Frank Keohane is also a useful resource. Both are available to buy from the Irish Georgian Society.
Investigate whether you are eligible for a grant
There are a number of grants available from the different bodies. However, “there are more protected structures out there than there are grants available,” notes Emmeline Henderson of the Irish Georgian Society. Initial enquiries should be made to your local authority. The standard grant is 50% of the approved cost of works, up to a maximum of E13,000. A planning authority may recommend, in exceptional circumstances, a grant of 75% of the approved costs, up to E25,000. The Heritage Council offers different types of financial assistance, including the ‘Buildings at Risk Programme’. The Irish Georgian Society also have a limited number of grants available.
Make adjustments to the property that will make it more suited to modern living
“With a bit of respect it is possible to make period buildings useful for people to live in with modern lifestyles without destroying the character of the place,” says Colm Murray of the Heritage Council. “It is important to do it without destroying what is special about the old building or what makes it feel old, and to avoid rushing into decisions that will ruin the building. It is rarely necessary to do damaging work when renovating a period property for residential use; extensions are generally acceptable.” If you use a conservation architect who is accredited by the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland (RIAI) you will find that sympathetic design will rarely be refused planning permission.
Source the relevant tradespeople
The Irish Georgian Society have a skills register with details of tradespeople who they recommend for this type of work, available on their website. “We pride ourselves on being the first port of call for finding tradespeople,” says Emmeline Henderson. “Our traditional building and conservation skills register of practitioners is an online database of disciplines that preserve period properties, including thatchers, joiners, etc. There is no formal accreditation process, but it provides contact details and an indication of projects that they have worked on.” If it is a listed building then you are actually required by law to do certain work to it, as allowing it to fall into disrepair can result in fines.