Ministers O’Brien and Noonan confirm agreement to purchase Dowth Hall demesne, Co Meath and the establishment of a new National Park
Noting it as a once-in-a-generation opportunity, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O Brien, TD, today confirmed the State’s purchase of the World Heritage lands of Dowth Hall and demesne, including Netterville, in Co. Meath and the establishment of a new National Park – the Boyne Valley (Brú na Bóinne) National Park.
The property is 552 acres in size, and is a cultural and natural heritage site of national and international importance. It includes Dowth Hall, an eighteenth century neoclassical country house, and Netterville Manor, a late Victorian almshouse. The lands amount to approximately one third of the total area of the UNESCO World Heritage Property of Brú na Bóinne, which includes the great Neolithic passage tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.
This historic purchase, announced in Dowth this morning by Minister O'Brien together with the Minister of State with responsibility for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan TD, paves the way for Ireland’s newest National Park - the Boyne Valley (Brú na Bóinne) National Park. Ireland’s National Parks protect our biodiversity and built heritage, and promote education, research and recreation. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) manages six National Parks, with Wicklow Mountains National Park the only one in the east of the country. With its diverse, world renowned nature and heritage, Dowth presents a remarkable opportunity to designate a seventh National Park.
The heritage of Dowth spans from early prehistory through to the medieval period, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries right up to the modern era. The diverse range of historical periods reflected in its archaeology and built heritage, along with its natural beauty and biodiversity makes Dowth a unique site within the list of UNESCO World Heritage Properties.
Dowth has been actively managed by Devenish Nutrition over the last decade to preserve its cultural heritage and biodiversity. As well as their position within the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Property, the Dowth lands are important places for nature. They host a wide range of habitats, including species-rich grasslands, native woodlands and mature hedgerows. The Boyne River which runs through the lands is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the Habitats Directive, and as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the Birds Directive. The river is home to dozens of bird and animal species, including endangered species. The NPWS will maintain the careful management of the farmlands, habitats and species to date and will work to protect and improve it even further.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service, the National Monuments Service and the Office of Public Works will now work together to deliver a Masterplan for the property that allows for the protection, presentation and management of this area of the Boyne Valley for the people of Ireland. Management of Dowth Hall and lands will form part of the existing Brú na Bóinne Management Plan and strengthen the vision for the protection of Dowth’s remarkable heritage, including the Neolithic passage tomb discovered in 2017 under Dowth Hall itself.
The Masterplan will expand measures and commitments to ensure protection of heritage at the site and to promote and enable the public to enjoy its natural and cultural beauty. It will include concrete proposals which support and build on research, education and public engagement to inform policy and future management of the property and its biodiversity. The plan envisages capacity building in the public, private and research sectors to deliver benefits for archaeology, the farming community and farmland biodiversity. The property also has great potential for engagement with schools, educational bodies, the business sector and the wider public.
Speaking at Dowth Hall this morning, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD said:
‘Rarely does the State get an opportunity to acquire lands of such significance. This landscape and property is of exceptional heritage importance. Here in this one place we have over 5000 years of recorded history. In our care, it will significantly enhance our management of the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage landscape. We will conserve and protect Dowth’s heritage in line with our obligations to UNESCO and we will enhance responsible tourism, ensuring it becomes a standout destination. This purchase opens up possibilities for us to develop heritage partnerships, protect remarkable heritage and make it accessible. It is simply an outstanding opportunity for an outstanding place”.
Minister of State with responsibility for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD added:
“This intact 18th century demesne, layered over a monumental prehistoric landscape of global importance and combined with the outstanding natural heritage of the Boyne Valley represents an outstanding addition to Ireland’s family of National Parks. We look forward to sustaining and growing this legacy to ensure that farming, nature and the cultural heritage of this ancient landscape can continue in harmony, as they have done since our ancestors first settled in the Boyne Valley over 5,500 years ago. Through our partnerships with state agencies, departments, local authorities and communities – which are enshrined in Heritage Ireland 2030, our national heritage plan – we are committed to nurturing Dowth as a key pillar of Ireland’s remarkable heritage that we can all admire, be proud of and enjoy.”
Niall O Donnchu, Director General of National Parks and Wildlife Service said:
“The work begins now of developing a Masterplan for Dowth. We will approach this with a keen sense of responsibility, ambition and excitement, knowing that this is a remarkable opportunity for Ireland’s heritage to play a lead role in the regional economy and in place-making for the east of the country. This new National Park is a special place where history, heritage, nature and culture collide. We will work with stakeholders in developing a Masterplan that will deliver on its full potential for locals, visitors and generations to come. I want to pay tribute to our team across the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Monuments Services for their work on this acquisition, and on their readiness to take over custodianship of this remarkable place from Devenish who have championed and maintained it with such care over the last ten years."
Minister of State with responsibility for Office of Public Works, Patrick O'Donovan TD, said:
Dowth demesne is a key part of the outstanding heritage of the Boyne Valley. It is highly significant that the State will now be able to unite the wider historic landscape to create an extraordinary resource for the enjoyment of current and future generations. The OPW has a long association with this area of Meath, conserving and presenting the extraordinary archaeological, natural and built heritage of both Brú na Bóinne and the Battle of the Boyne site. We are excited to be working with our colleagues in NPWS and the National Monuments Service to secure the future of the incredibly important historic landscape at Dowth. I want to acknowledge the OPW skilled craftsmen and women who, for decades, have conserved, presented and interpreted Brú na Bóinne and who will relish the opportunity to conserve the rich and diverse heritage elements at Dowth.
Owen Brennan, Executive Chairman of Devenish Nutrition said
“We are very pleased to welcome what is a new and exciting chapter for Dowth and the Boyne Valley. We wish to acknowledge the scale of the opportunity created by the vision of a World Heritage National Park here in Brú na Bóinne led by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage on behalf of the State for all stakeholders. We wish all concerned every success into the future. We also want to thank everyone who supported Devenish’s efforts in Dowth in so many ways, it is very much appreciated.”
Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage publishes H1 Social and Affordable Housing Delivery
Delivery of social and affordable housing in Ireland remains on track to exceed last year’s impressive gains. This comes as the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage have today (22 September) published the social and affordable housing delivery figures for the first half of 2023. The publication of the figures follows the standard and necessary verification processes.
The figures show that 2,298 social homes were delivered in H1 through build, acquisition and leasing and 1,290 affordable homes were delivered in H1 including Cost Rental and Affordable Purchase homes via Approved Housing Bodies, Local Authorities and the Land Development Agency (LDA) and through the First Home Scheme.
Including HAP and RAS, 7,234 social housing solutions were delivered in H1 2023.
There is a strong pipeline of over 22,600 social homes either on site or at various stages of design and procurement.
Traditionally, the delivery of social housing by local authorities builds throughout the year and a significant part of the delivery is delivered in Q4. This was the case last year when 10,263 social homes were delivered (11.9% increase on 2021 figures) - the highest annual output of social homes in decades and the highest level of delivery of new-build housing since 1975. The current pipeline identified indicates that last year’s record will be exceeded this year.
Recent interventions such as the Tenant in Situ initiative are also making a significant impact in providing secure long-term social and affordable tenancies. For 2023 the department increased the social housing acquisition target from an initial 200 to at least 1,500 and the latest information provided by local authorities which will be validated and verified by the department shows there are 800 tenant in situ sales concluded with another 1,300 in progress.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, has emphasised that the level of social and affordable housing will continue to grow and that, as was evident in recent years delivery across all streams is typically weighted towards the year-end.
Commenting he said:
“Last year we delivered the highest amount of social homes in decades and record delivery of new-build social housing since the mid-1970s. Based on the projections and data available, I am very confident that this year we will exceed last year’s performance and post another impressive level of delivery.
“This delivery will mirror the strong overall growth in the overall housing sector where over 14,000 homes were completed between January and June - the highest for this period since records began. In fact, figures published just yesterday show that more than 21,300 new homes have commenced construction in the first eight months of this year, up 14% on the same period last year.
“We are making significant progress on all fronts and I believe we will see a significant increase in social housing throughout the second half of the year – reflecting this government's commitment to ensure that there is indeed housing for all.”
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, and the Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, have announced approval in principle of €9 million under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) for essential conservation works at the Iveagh Markets in Dublin 8.
The Iveagh Market complex is a protected structure on Francis Street, Dublin 8 and was developed by the Guinness family in 1907. The market closed in 1996, and has been disused ever since. Dublin City Council has made proposals to secure the fabric of the structure through a programme of essential works to be carried out to prevent this protected structure from continued decline.
The announcement by the Ministers today means this proposal can now progress.
Commenting Minister O’Brien said:
“I am very glad to be in a position to provide this funding for Dublin City Council to get on with urgent conservation works to secure the Iveagh Markets.
"We’ve already seen what URDF funding has accomplished in this area with the fantastic public realm works which have been completed on Francis Street.
"Now using further URDF funds we will be in a position to carry out essential works such as conservation repairs to the roofs and works to stabilise the Diocletian style arched windows and associated brickwork – all of which are vital to the integrity of the building."
Minister Noonan added:
“This vital funding will secure the fabric of the beloved Iveagh Markets in the heart of Dublin City and prevent any further deterioration.
"While the future use and management of the building is not included in this specific project scope, it is my hope that the stabilisation of the building will lead to a participative, community-led process that envisions a thriving future for this iconic building as part of the wider redevelopment of Frances Street and Meath Street.
"The people of the Liberties are rightly proud of their historic market traditions and have a deep sense of place, which the Iveagh Markets has the potential to be emblematic of."
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, today announced a €75.4 million increase in Local Property Tax (LPT) baseline funding to Local Authorities – bringing the total to €428.4 million in 2024 – following a review of how the money is allocated.
Every local authority receives a minimum (’baseline’) amount of funding from the Local Property Tax, supplemented by funding from the exchequer where a local authority’s LPT income is lower than its baseline. This baseline funding is essential and recognises the essential role played by local authorities, not only in delivering a broad range of services day-to-day, but also in successfully leading the local response to emergency situations; such as the sector’s establishment of Community Call during COVID-19, and more recently the community response to support the Ukrainian crisis.
Minister O’Brien said:
“Local Authorities play an integral role in the delivery of services to our citizens. I am aware of the growing challenges faced by local authorities due to the increase in demand for services and the growing cost of providing these. This significant increase in funding should go a long way towards easing the pressure on the sector.
“Since 2020 I have been committed to a review of the baseline funding of local authorities and I established a working group earlier this year to examine the issue. I am pleased to announce that today’s funding has been guided by the review that has taken place and the recommendations of the working group.”
Kieran O’Donnell, Minister of State for Local Government and Planning, welcomed the completion of the review of Local Property Tax baselines, noting the important work completed by the review group, which included elected local representatives, to inform the final model.
Minister O’Donnell said:
“I would like to thank the Working Group for all their work on assisting our review of how we provide baseline funding. Today’s increase in allocations reflects the importance of the work that local authorities do, which I see for myself as I visit and meet with Councillors across the country.”
Baseline funding and equalisationEvery local authority is entitled to receive a minimum amount of funding from the local retention of LPT - known as baseline funding.
Equalisation is the process that ensures that all LPT allocations are funded up to this baseline. The baseline is made up of a combination of LPT yield and, where necessary, funding from the Exchequer. It is important that all local authorities receive at least this baseline level of funding to help ensure they can deliver adequate levels of service, as there are variances across the country in terms of LPT yield.
A working group, with representation from the local government sector, was set up earlier this year to review the allocation of baseline funding. The work of this group has concluded, with recommendations that baseline funding should be distributed in line with:
However, all 31 local authorities will see their baseline funding increase by a minimum of €1.5 million in 2024.
As well as assisting local authorities to meet the costs of providing essential services, ensuring a minimum increase in baseline funding to each local authority enables a level of flexibility and discretion for each authority to address local resource demands arising from the delivery of priority government initiatives.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, has welcomed the publication of the Expert Group Report in relation to the First Revision of the National Planning Framework (NPF).
The Expert Group, comprising three independent experts with experience of spatial planning, economic and social development and environmental protection, was established in March 2023. The Expert Group was requested by the Minister to provide a high-level overview of the NPF, published in 2018, and to identify matters to be considered in the first statutory revision of the NPF.
Government formally commenced the process to undertake the First Revision of the NPF in June 2023, and the process is due to be completed in April 2024.
The Expert Group’s Report summarised that the NPF Revision should build on the current NPF strategy and strengthen it in three broad respects:
“This Report is an important signpost in the First Revision to the National Planning Framework and provides clarity on what should be the focus for this revision. I wish to thank the members of the Expert Group for their valuable contribution, expertise and commitment with this body of work.
“I am giving careful consideration to the recommendations of the Expert Group, as the revision process provides the opportunity to develop the national planning policy agenda to shape Ireland’s future growth and development in the years ahead.”
The Minister of State for Local Government and Planning, Kieran O’Donnell, emphasised the value of the report to the revision process:
“In completing this Report, the members of the Expert Group have undertaken a comprehensive review which will be instrumental in informing the debate and discussion with key stakeholder groups specifically established for the revision process, including the reconvened Planning Advisory Forum. I look forward to engaging with the Forum members on the Expert Group report and advancing to the next stage of the revision process over the coming weeks.”
The Expert Group submitted their Report to Minister O’Brien on 16 August 2023 and it will now inform the preparation of an ‘Issues Paper’ which is currently in development for stakeholder consultation.
This process will also inform the preparation of the draft NPF Revision, which will be subject to Oireachtas engagement and scrutiny by the Joint Oireachtas Committee. The draft revision will be published for consultation in December 2023.
All relevant information pertaining to the revision will be available on the dedicated website, accessible at www.npf.ie.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien has welcomed the decision of SIPTU Retained Firefighter members to accept the terms of the Workplace Relations Commission proposals aimed at resolving their industrial relations dispute.
Commenting on the result of the SIPTU ballot Minister O’Brien said:
“I welcome the decision of the Retained Fire Fighters to accept the recommendations of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). I want to thank them and their representatives for their constructive engagement with the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA). I also want to thank the WRC for their efforts in bringing about a resolution to this dispute.”
Discussions at the WRC were led, on behalf of the local authorities, by the LGMA and supported by representatives of the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) and officials from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in a supporting advisory role.
The WRC agreement proposals were built on the foundation of a previous Labour Court recommendation that provides for:
Concluding Minister O’Brien said:
“I have always acknowledged the challenges associated with both the recruitment and retention of retained fire personnel and I have consistently advocated for a better approach and I will continue to do so. Our firefighters are an invaluable frontline service staffed by very dedicated and selfless people, serving their communities around the clock. I will continue to support them in the work which they do.”