New Pilot Scheme – Conservation Advice Grant Scheme for Vacant Traditional Farmhouses

The Dept of Housing, Local Government and Heritage introduced a new pilot scheme to provide grants for expert conservation advice to owners of vacant farmhouses, details of the scheme were published on 15th June last.

Obtaining unbiased advice

In our experience, potential purchasers can find the process of obtaining clear, unbiased advice for renovation/refurbishment older properties (and for vernacular buildings in particular) challenging, and are quite often put off at the outset, by well meant (but factually incorrect) advice. The old adage of ‘it would be cheaper to knock it’ unfortunately perseveres. Therefore, it is encouraging to see that this Pilot scheme offers a grant for prospective purchasers to obtain correct, unbiased, balanced advice from professionals experienced in working with older and vernacular properties.

This advice can assist purchasers at the all important first step of the process to revitalise some of our valuable urban and rural traditional & vernacular heritage, ensuring it is maintained for future generations.

What are Vernacular Buildings?

The term ‘vernacular’ refers to buildings which were constructed using local materials, labour and which were adapted to suit their particular surroundings – examples such as building the gable of a property to the north, slate hanging/cladding along exposed elevations, using local rough (i.e. uncut) stone, are all typical of these properties. However, these local or regional ‘quirks’ does not lessen the fact that they are serviceable, well-constructed buildings which have stood the test of time. It is also true that many of these ‘vernacular’ properties exist in our large towns and cities and many have great potential for re-use.

Relevance of the pilot scheme

This Pilot scheme will be of interest to potential purchasers who are considering purchasing a property with refurbishment potential, under the Croí Cónaithe (Towns) Initiative. This initiative launched in November 2022, provides grants of between €30,000-€50,000 for the refurbishment of vacant and/or derelict properties for occupation as a principal private residence, including the conversion of a property which has not been used as residential previously (e.g. shops, pubs etc).

As a further incentive, the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant can also be used in conjunction with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) grants to help improve the energy efficiency of the property.

Benefits of the pilot scheme

As Building Surveyors, we support any incentives which firstly encourage the refurbishment of vacant or derelict buildings & dwellings in our cities, towns and villages, and secondly, as professionals in the construction industry concerned with Climate change, Carbon emissions and Sustainability – the re-use of existing buildings, fabric and materials means that these properties are inherently sustainable and have low embodied carbon, as they exist already.

The above, together with the fact that renovation of these properties can bring life back to areas of under-use and dereliction, is also to be applauded. A recent change to the Scheme, also ensures that property owners and potential purchasers can either (i) refurbish and renovate these properties for use as a dwelling, or (ii) for rental purposes is also to be welcomed, as we feel this can only encourage refurbishment of existing buildings, and provide additional residential options for buyers and renters.

Knight Frank Building Surveying

Our core training is in understanding building fabric (both modern and historic) and the defects which can be encountered with older building stock. In addition, our knowledge of Building Regulations and related Legislation can assist with decision-making with older properties, which take account of the fact that historic and older buildings require different approaches in terms of compliance, and can assist owners/occupiers with renovating and revitalising an existing building for another era.

If you would like to know more don’t hesitate to get in touch.