List of Protected Structures

List of Protected Structures

Postby GrahamH » Thu Feb 09, 2006 10:32 pm

So who are these select few that are responsible for drawing up local authorities' lists of Protected Structures, and adding and subtracting to and from them?
What sort of qualifications do they have, and what criteria do they use in assessing structures?

What 'controls', if any, are in place to ensure that some buildings do not fall through the net, or conversely that prevent 'unworthy' structures being included?

And is it right that so few should have a right to determine what is of value for so many?
As much as I would generally advocate the protection of such a building assuming it to be of merit in any of the set out categories, one may take the example of a standard building from the 19th century that would have the description of "sand-based rendered townhouse c1850" in the list. Now to most people that would be an ugly dirty depressing pile of junk that ought to be swept away to allow for some nice new red brick development.

How can a local authority stand over such a case that is little other than a charming curiosity for a clique of architectural historians?

(yes I'm being provocative)
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Re: List of Protected Structures

Postby ctesiphon » Fri Feb 10, 2006 2:50 am

Oh alright. I'll take your bait (in the spirit of the question!).

There is a number of ways a building can end up on the RPS (technically there's nothing called the 'List of Protected Structures', it's 'Record of...', although it wouldn't surprise me at all if some LAs were still using 'List'- but I'm just being provocative;) ).

The original lists were prepared in a very ad hoc manner in the early 1970s, principally by Maurice Craig and William Garner, on behalf of An Foras Forbartha, driving around the countryside saying 'Ooh, there's a good one!' Well, I jest a bit, but not much. The first sweep was only ever intended to be a preliminary examination, but as is the way with this country it became the body of knowledge on which many decisions were based and was rarely supplemented by additional research or examination. Some LAs, notably urban ones, did more work themselves, but that was pretty much the state of play until the early 1990s. (Most of these lists were transferred wholesale onto the RPS after the 2000 Act- somewhat problematic, but that's a question for another day.)

In about 1992 the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage was begun informally in the OPW to fulfil Ireland's obligations under the Granada Convention (only about 10 years after the Convention was passed) to compile a systematic record of the country's built heritage. This was transferred to the Dept of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands when that Dept was established, then passed to Duchas The Heritage Service, then to DEHLG where it resides today (though in practice the work never really changed, just the admin and the politics). The NIAH was formally established in 1999 by legislation, at the same time as the new provisions re heritage were made law (ultimately becoming Part IV of the 2000 Act). The work carried out by the NIAH is today the principal way in which buildings become Protected Structures.

The Recorders with the NIAH have been a diverse bunch over the years, comprising architects, architectural historians, historians and archaeologists, with a smattering of others. In latter years, a conservation qualification such as the MUBC from UCD has featured more prominently too. Some of them are now respected academics and professionals (I'm not naming names), some of them spend a bit too much time on certain internet discussion boards:o . And so it goes... (I'm talking about myself here, lest the other former NIAH affiliate and regular Archiseeker thinks otherwise).
The main qualification is experience. Looking, looking again, researching, understanding. I was two years in the job before I did any real field-work.

In a nutshell, the NIAH procedure is three steps- Recording, Controlling and Assessing. Recording is field-work - written description, research and images, Controlling is checking the Recorder's work. Each party ascribes certain values (= your 'criteria') to the structure and decides on a rating. The values (8 No.) are Architectural, Historical, Archaeological, Artistic, Cultural, Social, Scientific and Technical. The ratings (5 No.) are Record Only, Local, Regional, National and International. If there is a discrepancy between Recorder and Controller, it is referred to an Assessor - usually a senior in-house architect - for arbitration. So every case goes through at least two pairs of relatively knowledgeable hands.

Where I see a problem with the current system (= your 'controls') is that contracts for recording work are based on an arbitrary number of buildings rather than on an in-depth survey. In the past, fully comprehensive surveys were undertaken, though the down-side was that they were never published, but now, while the material is published relatively promptly, it lacks the certainty that every possible site was examined. Take your pick, I guess.

Conversely, it is very hard for an 'unworthy' structure to make it through the hoops.

In theory, anything of Regional and above is recommended 'by the Minister' for inclusion in the RPS. It is then up to the Councillors to decide whether to accept or reject the Minister's recommendations, though they must provide reasons for the ones they reject. The involvement of Councillors in the process is one of my main concerns and grievances with the whole system. In essence, heritage justifications are rarely to the fore in their analysis- see the recent example of the pier in Co Clare as an illustration. (I think Councillors should be the next focus of your provocation.:) ) Once a structure is on the RPS, it is simply protected. We have no gradings here, unlike Britain and Northern Ireland.

There are other methods of getting structures onto the RPS too. The LA can hire someone to carry out a survey (or do it in-house, but few LAs have the skills) instead of waiting for the NIAH work programme to get around to their functional area. In this case, it's really just the word of a Recorder that goes to the Council.

Also, owners can apply to have their building included (or excluded), on foot of which the LA is obliged to look into it. In truth, I've never heard of anyone asking to be put on the RPS. I've a feeling if we had a sufficiently resourced grants system there would be more applications for inclusion, but as it stands currently many owners see PS designation as an onerous burden. In many cases they're probably right.

So a LA can thus be pretty confident that anything on its RPS has been fairly assessed, and should thus be able to stand over their RPS. If mistakes are made there is a mechanism for 'de-listing' srtuctures- kind of like Recording in reverse.

As to the question of 'is it right that so few should have a right determine what is of value for so many', I would say in essence Yes. We're entering the realm of morality and subjectivity here a bit, so I must be careful, but there is an educational aspect to it too. By highlighting good work, notable historic sites, innovative practices and design, it would be hoped that the wider public should gain an understanding of what constitutes the best of Irish Architectural Heritage. In the long run, then, perhaps the job of the few would become redundant as the many value their (and it is their, not the preserve of an elite) cultural heritage. Lofty, I know, but a man can dream.

To give a practical example: Some architects with the NIAH had a hard time understanding the merits of a vernacular corrugated shed. Equally, I have a liking for certain styles and types of buildings more than others. But I developed the ability to see the quality in something I didn't like, and the ability to understand that not everything I like might be widely appreciated (harder to develop than the former:) ). I suppose you could say that it's like the 'third ear' that very good musicians are said to have- the ability to step outside themselves and hear their playing as if it were the playing of another, and judge it accordingly. It's about putting aside your personal bias and aiming at the ever-elusive objectivity.

Sure the system has its flaws, and they're the things that often get highlighted, but it has many strengths too. It is certainly an improvement on what went on until the mid-1990s, not least in its incorporation of objective criteria into the assessment process. Now all we need is the money to back it up.

Does this answer your question?
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Re: List of Protected Structures

Postby publicrealm » Fri Feb 10, 2006 3:04 am

Probably like most people who who post here I am interested in buildings and would like some to be preserved from insensitive development. I have often made submissions to planning authorities on such cases.

Someone has to make the call as to what should be 'protected' and I am happy to leave it to the planners (but ultimately the councillors, sensitive souls, may overrule the planners).

Nevertheless, I too would question the idea of conserving for the appreciation of the few (at the expense of all).

Ultimately I have come to believe that we should conserve whatever is deemed worthy of conservation but that we must compensate the owners - I think it unreasonable to require an individual to retain draughty timber windows (and perhaps a thatched roof - or a set of railings which prevent off street parking) for my (relatively) rarified pleasure.

Why, for example, should an owner in an unprotected property be permitted off street parking (or an additional dwelling/s within his cultilege) when this is denied to the owner of a protecred structure? If society deems it important enough to restrict in terms of development then compensation should be automatic. Ditto for protected views and landscapes.
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Re: List of Protected Structures

Postby GrahamH » Fri Feb 10, 2006 4:13 am

I’d agree up to a point, in that an element of compensation should be offered but only through the current grants system we have in place (notwithstanding the minuscule amounts set aside by LA’s at the minute). The cost of upgrading/improving/otherwise altering a protected structure is generally speaking not extortionate in comparison to a non-protected building – for the majority of average buildings, especially dwellings. Where costs do mount up, that’s when the grant system should kick in and grants can be issued in a proportional way, which I think is fair. It’s not as if the average Joe Soap is being required to gild every ceiling in his home, or every commercial building being required to foot the bill for specialist conservation teams to be dressed in 1830s costume – by and large it is the practices, materials and design that are being enforced with PSs, not all necessarily higher cost interventions. And even if they are, within reasonable boundaries it ought to be up to the owner to foot the bill – anything above that and the grant system kicks in (or should anyway).


Thank you ctesiphon for that extensive reply, most interesting. The NIAH system seems a very fair and comprehensive one, even if as you say it cannot account for everything – the three step procedure being particularly impressive.
Just on the issue of Councillors, you cannot be serious about they deciding over what is to be accepted or not?! What is the point of going through the expert system only for it to be put into the hands of…lets just say laypeople?
And you say it is structures classed as Regional or above that get passed by the Minister (presumably advisors/OPW): what about Local – are these structures automatically passed onto Councillors?

Yes, again I was being somewhat disingenuous over the ‘is it right’ mantra :) – agreed it is very much so an area of education and protecting the wider public interest. Just as I may hold no knowledge whatever of marshland habitats or the flora and fauna of boglands I would still expect what experts in the field deem to be worthy of conservation and protection be given just that statutory treatment, and similarly in those cases that owners of the land be given certain financial aid where the burden is considered excessive.

A final question that’s been niggling for a while – why was the graded listing system abolished with the 2000 Act, especially considering we usually look to the UK as something of a benchmark? Is there such a precedent to have a blanket system (with or without Declarations) in other countries?

Thanks again for the response – must have taken a while :)
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Re: List of Protected Structures

Postby ctesiphon » Fri Feb 10, 2006 3:05 pm

I'll be brief (still recovering from last night's message:) ).

I'm afraid I'm very serious about the involvement of Councillors. And it does have some serious implications. One 'hypothetical' case: a mid-19th century Midlands hotel is suggested for inclusion, a councillor knows the owner and knows he's thinking of knocking it to build a much bigger one (or the owner makes representations), he argues against it in the Council meeting on the basis that demolition and construction will being badly needed jobs to the area (or worse, on the grounds that 'decentralisation' to his town will require first class conference facilities), the other councillors think 'What's the difference between 242 Protected Structures and 243 PSs' and so the building is not included. Then five years down the line 'decentralisation' is shelved indefinitely with only the basement and foundations built and the town is visually scarred.

Re Ratings: Anything of Local and above is considered our architectural heritage, but the Act provides that a PS must be of 'special Architectural, Historical, A, A, S, S, S and T' interest, so it's Regional and above. (There's a whole other debate about the meaning of the word 'special', but we'll save that one.) In one case I know, a town council engaged the services of a consultant who prepared a full town survey, telling them 'Local and above is your heritage, Regional and above should be PSs' but they were so interested in the work that they ended up including quite a few of the Local buildings as PSs too. (Interesting aside- I wonder if this caused difficulty with the Local building owners? Perhaps they'd have a case for de-listing on the grounds that the national criteria [as established by the NIAH] had been bent?)

Re Experience: I was interviewing a senior archaeologist in the Environment and Heritage Service in NI a few months ago who pretty much confirmed that they see their years of experience as sufficient grounds for decision making.
ctesiphon: So that’s your call? What you say goes?

Archaeologist: Yes. Well, most of the time. And that’s what stands at appeal or at hearings of various kinds. We are the professional people who make the decisions and our view… The buck stops here.


Re 'Blanket' Systems: I don't know of an international precedent. I think the reasoning behind the decision was in essence that either something is protected or it's not. I agree- I think a grading system would help greatly, not least in that degrees of importance can equate to degrees of protection and degrees of funding.

So apparently that was the brief version. Back to bed with me now.
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Re: List of Protected Structures

Postby GrahamH » Fri Feb 10, 2006 8:37 pm

If I might just haul you out again for a minute :) - what is the status then of Local buildings? Why are they included in the Record if they're not PSs? Indeed why does the category of Local even exist if it isn't officially recognised? (assumption)
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Re: List of Protected Structures

Postby ctesiphon » Fri Feb 10, 2006 10:52 pm

The two things - NIAH and RPS - are separate. Yes, the NIAH feeds into many RPSs, and will in time into all presumably, but it also serves as a centralised record of sorts. The Granada Convention required member countries to compile systematic surveys of their built heritage, so the NIAH is Ireland's answer.
Local-rated buildings are thus deemed to be of some architectural heritage value, but not of sufficient value to merit protection under the law. As time passes they might become more valuable, so then the record can be updated and they might become PSs. In truth, it's hard enough persuading councillors and the public on some of the Regional ones without claiming that the end-of-terrace local authority house from 1955 is a candidate as it is still in its fully original state.

Architectural Conservation Areas are one way of dealing with Local stuff, sort of a looser, general protection, but as we know from Ardee sometimes they're not worth the paper they're written on.
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Re: List of Protected Structures

Postby GrahamH » Sat Feb 11, 2006 6:07 am

ctesiphon wrote:The two things - NIAH and RPS - are separate.


Yes I knew that much at least, but again can I ask (pester) where the Local designation derives from, and what is its purpose? Presumably it is a LA categorisation? Does it have any legal standing at all if it cannot obtain PS status?

Just these structures interest me as 1) they tend to be the 'humbler', arguably more 'dubious' buildings as may be perceived by the public and 2) at least one RPS I know of is littered with them!

Thanks.
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Re: List of Protected Structures

Postby Bren88 » Tue Feb 14, 2006 3:31 am

Some buildings appear to make it on to the list (or the record) a little to easily. Take Capel street for example, there're are 50 something PSs on Capel street. That seams a little bit much. I am not trying to say that capel st doesn't have any social or historical value, it certainly does, but I find it difficult to believe that 53 (i think) buildings are "special" above all others.
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Re: List of Protected Structures

Postby ctesiphon » Tue Feb 14, 2006 4:35 pm

Bren-
50 buildings of a total of how many on the street? And is it just the high number that bothers you or is it the quality of the buildings? One thing I learned is that the numbers game doesn't work with the RPS, when trying either to bump up the numbers or to keep them down. Ultimately, if a building is worthy it's worthy. I know it sounds simplistic, but some of the best rules of thumb are simplistic.
Interestingly, I was talking to someone recently who was arguing that streets such as Capel Street would be better candidates for general protection, say in the form of an ACA or ASPC, than would streets such as Grafton Street, in that the horse has pretty much bolted already with Grafton, and it's kind of a one off, whereas Thomas Street, Capel Street, Dorset Street etc have a workaday vibrancy that is the essence of their charm.

Graham-
I had this written the other day but when I went to send it it disappeared. Here goes again, and fingers crossed.
The Local designation simply comes from the NIAH rating scale nad has nothing to do with local authorities. Its purpose is to show that the structure has some architectural heritage value, i.e. is better than Record Only, but that it is not significant enough to merit protection under tha law. As the NIAH was originally conceived as a fully sytematic survey of the country it records (in theory) every structure in the country regardless of merit, the argument being that to know what is important it is first necessary to be fully aware of the context. In addition, structures can change their rating over time, either up or down the scale. Having a full survey allows active maintenance and management of the information.
Local designation has no legal standing afaik. In fact, in one way the whole NIAH has no legal standing (by which I mean the results, not the process). Legal standing only comes with the RPS, at which stage the rating becomes somewhat irrelevant. In theory, if a Local building improves it should be added to the RPS (but, y'know, Councillors).
One other thing that might be of relevance here is mention of the the confusion brought about by the use of the terms Local, Regional, etc. The terms are relatively meaningless, and could actually be replaced with A to E, or 1 to 5. A practical illustration of this is the case of vernacular buildings, which by definition are local. There was concern some years back that, say, thatched cottages or corrugated iron structures would fall through the gaps as they are local buildings, but the simple answer to that was to rate them Regional. This raised the concern that they were skewing the rating system, but in my eyes all it said was the labels for the rating system were flawed.
As to the matter of an RPS littered with Local buildings, I'd guess that that's a result of the wholesale transfer of a pre-1999 List onto the RPS. This is an area of some concern. There was an article in the Irish Planning and Environmental Law Journal in the last couple of years on this very subject. I'll try to dig out the reference and post it later. But when you say that the RPS in question is littered with them, do you mean it's littered with buildings rated by the NIAH as Local, or that it's littered with buildings that appear not to be of sufficient quality to merit inclusion? If it's the latter, there is always a chance that they're there for a good reason (not to question your eye, mind, which has always been sharp as a tack!;)).
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Re: List of Protected Structures

Postby GrahamH » Wed Feb 15, 2006 12:25 am

Littered as in rated as 'Local', amongst Regional and all the others. I must have a good look up on the description of these buildings and where they are (tend to be stuck for time any time I'm looking at the RPS for some reason).

Thanks for your information - so in theory all buildings (other than Regional +), even the chipper on the corner, are Local structures? It is simply a designation as part of the greater scheme of rating by the NIAH that isn't necessarily of any significance at all - indeed for the most part probably isn't? Is it the case that at present efforts are just going into recording buildings of architectural merit, before eventually, one day, encompassing everything?

Yes the 'bumping up' of buildings to Regional status is certainly something that skews the system. Whereas in practice there's nothing wrong with it if a worthy building is given protection, it nonetheless highlights as you say ctesiphon a flaw in the ranking methods that is in need of revision. Does the Loc, Reg, Nat, Intnat system replace the List 1, 2, 3 system, or did it exist alongside it pre-1999/2000 do you know?
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Re: List of Protected Structures

Postby Bren88 » Wed Feb 15, 2006 2:38 am

ctesiphon wrote:Bren-
50 buildings of a total of how many on the street? And is it just the high number that bothers you or is it the quality of the buildings?


53 buildings out of about 170 on the street. The amount doesn't bother me. I was just a little surprized that almost a third of the buildings were included when I know that alot of the buildings on the street are in very bad condition, some facades completely altered from there original design and some are modern buildings. Now I don't know which street number correspond with which buildings so I can't get an idea of which ones are protected. Hopefully the poor buildings are the ones that aren't protected.
Here is the sites page on Capel street
http://www.irish-architecture.com/buildings_ireland/dublin/northcity/capel_street/index.html
Some of these buildings are protected, some aren't. And some I'm not sure of.
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Re: List of Protected Structures

Postby ctesiphon » Thu Feb 16, 2006 2:19 am

Graham-
I think I've just twigged something. Does the RPS in question apply ratings to its buildings? I was under the impression that RPSs didn't do this, but perhaps some do.

Not everything that's not on the RPS is Local in the NIAH. Some are Record Only, such as 1980s aluminium Telecom Eireann phone boxes (are there any left these days?:o ), many warehouses in industrial estates, most new-build estates of three-bed semis. If the local chipper is Local, it's because it has a reasonably good shopfront, or was the birthplace of a minor historical personality, or somesuch.

Present efforts are indeed going into recording the better stuff, with the intention of going back eventually and recording the rest. I understand the motivation for this - that it's better to get most of the good stuff and publish it quickly at the risk of something important falling through the net, rather than trying to record everything and never getting it published because of the volume of material - but the 'double-jobbing' nature of re-recording might yet prove that the comprehensive survey would have been a better way to go. Still, the comprehensive way was tried and had its flaws, so let's give the two-stage one a chance, I suppose.

The two systems (Lists 1-3 and Local to Int'l) coexisted for a while, but only the Listing had legal force. The other was simply the NIAH system at the time. It was only with the 2000 Act, or technically with the 1999 Act that became Part IV of the 2000 Act, that the NIAH system became the primary one, although in practice many planning authorities took longer than they should have to make the change. Quelle surprise.:rolleyes:

Briefly, on the 'bumping up': the last survey I worked on, in 2002, was of an area of the country that, shall we say, isn't blessed with many quality buildings. In an effort to equate the number of records with the other two surveys then running, a few innovative measures were employed, such as splitting up records into their constituent parts. So in a higher quality area, a demesne with all the structures within its curtilage would have received a single record, whereas in my area every element of the demesne would have been recorded separately- gates, lodges, main house, garden features, etc. AFAIK, this practice has ceased and contracts are now placed for whatever number of buildings is discovered in advance, i.e. the buildings determine the time frame and contract fee rather than the other way around. This is as it should be, obviously.

Bren-
None of the three reasons you give would be sufficient grounds for leaving a building off the RPS on its own. 'Poor condition' can often mean 'retains substantial original fabric and layout'; an altered facade can hide an intact interior, or indeed can be of merit in its own right; and modern does not automatically equal unworthy. Certainly modern doesn't equal 'heritage', but the RPS is about quality from all ages. Some countries, apparently, operate a system of automatic protection for new buildings for a set time period.
I had a quick look at the link to the Capel Street page and I'd guess that most if not all of those ones are PSs, even the two-storey one with the mucky shopfront. Something about its facade says 'I'm more interesting than you might think!'
And to be fair to DCC, they have probably the most highly skilled Conservation Dept of any planning authority in the country.
I hope I'm not coming across as dismissive of your points and opinions- I'm enjoying the debate.
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Re: List of Protected Structures

Postby Bren88 » Thu Feb 16, 2006 4:48 am

ctesiphon wrote:Graham-
I had a quick look at the link to the Capel Street page and I'd guess that most if not all of those ones are PSs, even the two-storey one with the mucky shopfront. Something about its facade says 'I'm more interesting than you might think!'
And to be fair to DCC, they have probably the most highly skilled Conservation Dept of any planning authority in the country.
I hope I'm not coming across as dismissive of your points and opinions- I'm enjoying the debate.


Not coming accross as dismissive at all.I hope i'm not coming across as dismissive of the whole PS system. I should probably explain a little bit more on my reasons. These refer to some of the buildings.
  • Poor Quality - A building that was suited to being a prime example of a typical protected structure, and an example of why buildings are protect. But deglect over a number of years allowed this building to fall into a terrible state. And is now a shadow of it's former self. I feel some buildings were once great but protecting them now is pointless, but why protect buildings if they are let to rot. For example This building is in very bad condition, a long way from the building that appeared in a Malton print. It's also in a very public location, can't help but notice it on the way up the keys as it sticks out so much. Yet it's falling apart despite being protected. (incase I am misunderstood, I am not suggesting that this building be removed from the RPS, I was asking why have an such a vast RPS if little is done about great buildings like this until it is too late)
  • Altered buildings - Here I am talking about buildings that not just the facade is altered (shouldn't have really said facade), the whole interior is alien to the building. I suppose the RPS must try to preserve what little elements of character a building has left. But is trying to keep tiny elements when the whole building has practically been removed or altered really nesscery.
  • As for the buildings on capel street from this site. At least one, (possibly a second im not sure about one) is not protected. Have a guess as to which one, you might be surprised.
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Re: List of Protected Structures

Postby ctesiphon » Fri Feb 17, 2006 1:44 am

c) I elect not to embarrass myself by attempting a reply. Your question indicates I'll probably get it wrong anyway.:)

a) Very few buildings are ever really beyond help. The question is where do we draw the line beyond which intervention is pointless, whether by virture of cost, future usability, etc. I agree that thre is little point in protecting buildings if they're left to rot, but that's one of the main reasons for protecting things in the first place- to prevent neglect and deterioration. A PS owner has a duty of care towards their building, which, if not exercised, can result in them being forced to do so or risk having the building taken away. In theory. In practice there are few instances of this happening. I know of only one, but I'm not sure how public it is (sorry to be evasive).
This debate again comes down to the fact that the conservation system generally is under-resourced. If sufficient grants were available I'd hazard that there would be fewer eyesores and carcasses.
Your point "why have an such a vast RPS if little is done about great buildings like this until it is too late" is a good one. Eventually the RPS might risk becoming meaningless if it's shown not to have teeth.

b) Sometimes the elements can be enough. Indeed, sometimes it's only the elements that are protected. And sometimes the reasons for protection have nothing at all to do with the physical appearance of the building.
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Re: List of Protected Structures

Postby ctesiphon » Fri Feb 17, 2006 2:10 am

Graham-
A very interesting read. Should be in most college libraries, and is in Enfo afaik.

John Gore Grimes, 2003, The delights and tribulations of Protected Structure designation, Irish Planning and Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Summer).

(The title might be slightly wrong, but the reference should be spot on.)
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Re: List of Protected Structures

Postby GrahamH » Fri Feb 17, 2006 3:14 am

Sounds most interesting - will look it up, thanks ctesiphon.

Regarding the matter of LA's operating their own rating system in their RPSs and specifically the RPS mentioned (doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out for where ;)) - a good question, and one that I will look up. I'm not sure in what context the 'local' is used, whether in the description or rating section, so it'll be interesting to find out.

Agreed about building maintenance etc.
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