New Integrated National Landscape Strategy Needed

The National Heritage Council has published its blueprint for managing Ireland’s landscapes in an integrated and participative way that takes full account of our natural, built and cultural heritages, rather than treating them as separate and unrelated concerns.

The blueprint for Ireland’s landscapes includes: introducing a Landscape Ireland Act; establishing a Landscape Observatory of Ireland; landscape-proofing existing primary legislation, government programmes and policies; and increasing public participation, accessibility and the use of local knowledge in landscape management.

“The problems of Ireland’s ‘ghost estates’, and last winter’s flooding of housing estates inappropriately constructed on floodplains, underline the necessity for a proper, integrated landscape strategy which takes due account of our built, natural and cultural heritage, and affords local communities an active, participative role in devising that policy,” comments Michael Starrett, chief executive, of the Heritage Council.

He says that a National Landscape legislative framework could “encourage and enable collaboration between local communities, national and local government and State agencies and on an agreed range of landscape management and conservation measures.”

Furthermore, he believes there is a need to review and landscape-proof all existing legislation and policies, including NAMA; Government policies such as the National Development Plan or National Spatial Strategy; fiscal policies such as area-specific tax incentives; and climate change, renewable energy and agri-environment policies, including the Rural Development Plan to take account of the emerging National Landscape Strategy.

Drawing on figures prepared by economist Jim Power and KPMG, as well as papers given by community groups at the Heritage Council’s 2009 Landscape Conference, he highlights the high return to society in terms of employment and tax returns from the Council’s relatively small investment in support of local heritage initiatives as an example of the economic return on proper landscape protection, management and planning.

Between 2004 and 2008, the Heritage Council invested Eur6.15 million spread over 26 local authority areas leading to an additional investment of around Eur10 million from other sources.

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