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08/03/2022 - Second Success for Ballyshannon’s Historic Town

Second Success for Ballyshannon’s Historic Towns Initiative image

Early twentieth-century postcard image of The Diamond in Ballyshannon that will benefit from the Historic Towns Initiative this year.  Donegal County Council in partnership with the Ballyshannon Regeneration Group and local property owners have secured €250,000 from The Heritage Council under the Historic Towns Initiative. 


The historic streetscape and several historic buildings in The Diamond in Ballyshannon are set to benefit from funding of €250,000 from The Heritage Council for the continued heritage-led regeneration of the town this year.  The Heritage Office and Conservation Office of Donegal County Council in partnership with the Ballyshannon Regeneration Group, Dedalus Architecture and local property owners were awarded €250,000 under The Heritage Council’s Historic Towns Initiative.  This is the fourth success for Donegal County Council under the Historic Towns Initiative following successful applications for Church Lane in Letterkenny (2019), Ramelton (2020) and The Mall in Ballyshannon (2021).  The award will be augmented with €100,000 in funding from Donegal County Council as well as private investment by property owners.


“I’m really thrilled for Ballyshannon on receiving this substantial funding under the Historic Towns Initiative” said Cllr. Barry Sweeny, Cathaoirleach of the Donegal Municipal District and Vice-Chairperson of the County Donegal Heritage Forum.  “It’s another big step in the heritage-led regeneration of Ireland’s oldest town and will result in more of our built heritage being conserved and protected for generations to come.  For the second year in a row, Ballyshannon has been successful under the Heritage Council’s Historic Towns Initiative.  The town needs it and deserves it and it will also help to address vacant and derelict buildings.  I would like to thank The Heritage Council and Minister Malcolm Noonan for their support and for recognising Ballyshannon as a settlement of great heritage value at national level.  I believe this success has come as a result of many years of work in building awareness, relationships and a confidence in our town.  Many previous heritage-related projects over the years celebrating, recording and promoting Ireland’s oldest town have all contributed and played a part in this success.  I hope that this will lead to both an improved streetscape and importantly, lead to re-use of some town centre buildings for commercial use, residential use or for benefit to our community.  I would also like to extend my congratulations and thanks to the team working on this initiative within Donegal County Council - Joseph Gallagher, Collette Beattie and Jo McMenamin – and to Duncan McLaren from Dedalus Architecture, to the community partners, the Ballyshannon Regeneration Group along with the property owners.” 


“The Ballyshannon Historic Towns Initiative builds on the Ballyshannon Conservation Plan commissioned in 2020 as part of the implementation of the County Donegal Heritage Plan” explained Joseph Gallagher, County Donegal Heritage Officer.  “Many elements of the historic streetscape of Ballyshannon survive and they lend character, sense of place and identity to the town.  The Historic Towns Initiative is local authority and local community-led and has heritage considerations at its heart.  Experience has shown that places that have a strong civic pride in their historic buildings, employ best conservation practice, and make wise land-use decisions are those that make the most attractive places to live, work and visit.  Many of County Donegal’s towns and villages are experiencing the same challenges as those around the country with the loss of services, vacancy and dereliction.  Initiatives such as the Historic Towns Initiative underline the continued need to prevent the loss and destruction of our historic built fabric, and emphasise the opportunities that historic buildings present to accommodate new uses and to bring life and business back to our historic towns and villages.”


“Eight historic buildings including the iconic Town Clock building in The Diamond in Ballyshannon will benefit from a total investment of about €500,000 this year” said Collette Beattie, Conservation Officer, Donegal County Council.  “The conservation works planned under the Historic Towns Initiative include the repair and reinstatement of timber sash windows and doors, the removal of uPVC fenestration, installation of cast-iron rainwater goods, the repair of historic shopfronts, roof and chimney repairs, the reinstatement of traditional hand-painted signage and a painting scheme for the buildings.  Building on our on-going work in The Mall in Ballyshannon, we worked closely with the Ballyshannon Regeneration Group and conservation architects Dedalus Architecture who will provide conservation supervision for the project.  The strong support given by local residents, businesses and community groups continues and we hope to have the works completed by November.”


Six of the buildings that are the subject of the Ballyshannon Historic Towns Initiative are Protected Structures.  A Protected Structure is a structure that is protected under the Planning & Development Act and is considered to be special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest.  The planned works are also taking place within a zone of archaeological potential which is protected under the National Monuments Acts in the historic town of Ballyshannon.  Malcolm Noonan, Minister of State for Heritage & Electoral Reform said: “As set out in the recently launched Heritage Ireland 2030 national heritage plan, we wish to put built, cultural and natural heritage at the front of both government policy and the recovery of the country as we emerge from the pandemic and so I look forward to working with The Heritage Council on similar initiatives over the coming months and years.”  Seven other towns countrywide secured funding for capital works under this year’s Historic Towns Initiative: Monaghan, County Monaghan (€247,900); Ballina, County Mayo (€160,000); Listowel, County Kerry (€151,500); Macroom, County Cork (€215,800); Naas, County Kildare (€168,900); Tipperary, County Tipperary (€163,000); and Enniscorthy, County Wexford (€250,000).  A further five towns also secured funding for the preparation of heritage-led regeneration plans: Ballymote, County Sligo (€40,000); Drogheda, County Louth (€20,000); Callan, County Kilkenny (€10,000); Carlow, County Carlow (€40,000) and Wexford, County Wexford (€40,000).


Every local authority can submit one application to the Historic Towns Initiative each year for a historic town with an indicative population of more than 1,500 inhabitants.  The proposed works must be based on a conservation plan-led approach and demonstrate strong community engagement.  If you think that your town meets or is working towards meeting the criteria for the Historic Towns Initiative, please contact the County Donegal Heritage Office on (074) 917 2576 or by e-mail at [email protected]

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