Donegal has lowest number of protected structures

Donegal has fewer listed structures than any other county in the country, it has emerged.

Donegal has fewer listed structures than any other county in the country, it has emerged.

A Central Statistics Office report on environmental indicators in Ireland in 2011 shows that Donegal has just 361 buildings the record of Protected Structures, fewer than many smaller counties with fewer inhabitants.

There are almost 40,000 buildings on the record of protected structures in Ireland and almost 12,000 of them are in Dublin.

Leitrim has 372 buildings on the list while Sligo has 552. Thirteen counties have more than 1,000 buildings listed.

Buildings can be recommended for the list but can only be added with the approval of county councillors. A building can has be removed from the list by councillors.

The list was introduced to the county and 2003 and includes churches, houses, public houses, bridges and signal towers. Three churches in east Donegal which were added to the list were subsequently removed by the council after an application by their owners. One has subsequently been returned to the list.

The council acknowledges that the list is not is big as it would like it to be but a survey by the National inventory of Architectural heritage is under way.

The first part of the survey is close to completion and it will recommend more than 700 structures in the south of the county for addition to the list. Surveys will then take part in the rest of the county. The national survey has been ongoing for over 15 years and Donegal is one of the last counties to be included. Conservation Architect with Donegal County Council, Claire McCallan, said many of the buildings to be added in the new list include plantation houses and the venacular Donegal thatched cottage, which is distinct from cottages in other parts of the country.

“While that list is low - and it is low considering the geographic spread of Donegal - we have been working on it hard for a while and we are delighted that this information is coming forward,” she said.

“It is a ongoing work in progress and we have found more and more people are reactive to the importance of our built heritage. While they look nice on a post card the cultural associations of cottages do not necessarily evoke a positive association as they are linked to poverty and emigration. Because of that people have not always preserved them. But more and more people are realising the built heritage is a very valuable asset particularly in attracting tourism.”

An Taisce’s Heritage Officer, Ian Lumley, said the addition of more buildings to the list through the survey is “better late than never”. He said a small list of protected structures leaves Donegal lagging behind in protecting its build heritage. “We told Donegal County Council years ago that there is no need to wait for an inventory because there is the Penguin Buildings of Ireland series covers the north-west of the country very well. There is ample information in that to go ahead and comprehensively list on the basis of that and see what the inventory adds to it .Before the new legislation came in most counties had listed buildings on their development plan - Donegal didn’t. Some councils had lists going back to the 1970s.”