Minister Noonan announces €95.5m in budget – an increase of 51% on 2020 – to support the conservation and enhancement of our built and natural heritage and support for jobs
Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, TD, today announced details of almost €96m funding allocated for heritage in Budget 2021. This represents an increase of 51% for our heritage on 2020.
The total funding for 2021 comprises €42.5m in capital expenditure (an increase of €16.5m or 63% on January 2020) and €53m in current expenditure (an increase of €16m or 43% on January 2020).
Announcing this funding, Minister Noonan said,
‘During the past difficult months, our built and natural heritage has provided a lifeline to many. Today’s announcement of €95.5m recognises the vital role played by our heritage in supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of the nation, contributing to biodiversity and mitigating the impacts of climate change.
The funding announced today will support an accelerated programme of conservation, health and safety, visitor and infrastructure projects across the 87,000-hectare National Parks and Reserves network and leverage support for rural employment
We are in the midst of a biodiversity and climate crisis and this funding reflects the Programme for Government response to both these areas. The biodiversity challenge is one of the defining issues of our generation and we all have a part to play. I know farmers want to do their bit so I am delighted that an additional 250 farms are joining the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme.
Peatlands are among our oldest natural habitats, and we all know it is a time of great transition in this area. An increase of funding to €14m will enable the restoration of up to 2,500 hectares of protected raised bogs across the midlands, which will contribute to long-term carbon emission reductions, improve biodiversity and water quality and create employment opportunities.
My Department’s built and archaeological capital grant schemes provide over 35,000 days' employment annually to the many small businesses, specialists and tradespeople involved in heritage-related construction activity. They also support the tourism sector that benefits from the huge interest in our heritage. I am delighted to announce €8.3m in funding for these schemes to continue their important work in 2021.
An increase to €9.6m in the allocation to the Heritage Council will allow it to deliver targeted supports to heritage organisations and heritage tourism businesses which have suffered as a result of Covid-19. I am very pleased to note that the Council will extend its popular Heritage at the Heart community grants scheme and also introduce a new Inclusive Heritage Programme
Last, but not least, Waterways Ireland will continue to invest in the essential maintenance of its networks – north and south of the border – and to enhance the blue and greenways that have become even more essential to the health and wellbeing of the nation over the past months.”
Funding for Heritage comprises €42.5m in capital and €53m in current investment and includes the following:
- €29m for National Parks and Wildlife Service and biodiversity. This funding will allow the NPWS to operate accelerated programmes of conservation, health and safety, visitor and basic infrastructure projects. It includes €1.5m to facilitate the clearance of invasive species clearance from 1,950 acres across our sites and will also enable the purchase of more electric and hybrid buses for our National Parks and the provision of sustainable solutions to traffic issues in our sites.
- For biodiversity, it will allow the NPWS to expand on its existing programmes of work on nature and habitats protection with farmers and landowners and, as part of an increased NPWS Farm Plan Scheme, will see contracts in place for 250 new farms. There will be an expansion of the NPWS's scientific work, development and implementation of biodiversity policy, and awareness raising. This investment will allow the Department to be ambitious as it leads the development of the next National Biodiversity Action Plan in 2021.
- An additional €14m for peatlands restoration and management. Increased funding allows for the restoration of up to 2,500 hectares of protected raised bogs across the midlands region which will benefit biodiversity; contribute to long-term carbon emission reductions and support up to 70 new jobs. Two Peatlands LIFE projects will also commence.
- €8.3m for built heritage and archaeological capital grant schemes, supporting the protection and promotion of our much-loved monuments as well as supporting the owners and custodians of historic and protected structures as they carry out hundreds of small-scale, labour-intensive projects to repair and safeguard our built heritage.
- €9.6m for the Heritage Council to facilitate targeted supports to heritage businesses and organisations impacted by Covid-19 and to grow its Heritage at the Heart community grants scheme. The Heritage Council will also develop an Inclusive Heritage Programme to ensure equal value is given to the heritage of all elements of our society and to improve access to our heritage for all. Phase 1 will focus on Traveller Heritage and will be developed in partnership with the Traveller community.
- €29m for Waterways Ireland to fund the maintenance of critical infrastructure, the extension of Greenway and Blueway routes throughout the navigational network and the development of a new operational base at Tullamore, and improved facilities in Dublin’s Docklands.
- €1.15m for the Irish Heritage Trust to develop programmes that share our biodiverse heritage and promote community wellbeing and to initiate a sustainability strategy focused on climate change and carbon neutrality.