A Conservation Officer with Donegal County Council says there is a shortage of qualified thatchers in the county, and work is ongoing to develop an accredited thatching school in the south west of the county.
Collette Beattie was speaking as the council invited applications for funding under a new built heritage scheme for thatched house maintenance which is additional to the schemes already in existence.
Donegal has received €76,000 under the new scheme, the largest allocation in the country.
Ms Beattie says owners are facing a number of challenges, including a shortage of skilled thatchers and high insurance costs.
She’s urging them to contact the council and apply under the new scheme…….
Photo 1: Rope-Thatched Cottage, Straboy, Glencolmcille
Rope thatching a cottage in Straboy, Glencolmcille / Gleann Cholm Cille. West and north Donegal is one of the few areas where rope thatching is still practiced in Ireland.
Photo 2: Scollop-Thatched Cottage, Ballindrait
This scollop-thatched, direct-entry cottage in Ballindrait displays clear evidence of the existence of the half-loft by the two small windows in the gable on either side of the hearth. The raised ‘barges’ on the gable provide protection for the thatch from winds. New funding for conservation of thatch structures is available under the Built Heritage Investment Scheme.
Release in full –
New Thatching Fund Available
A dedicated €500,000 has been ring-fenced under the Built Heritage Investment Scheme (BHIS) for conservation repairs to historic thatched structures to maximise the availability of financial assistance to such owners, helping them offset other costs. Each Local Authority has been allocated a share of the ring-fenced funding based on the number of historic thatched structures within its boundaries. County Donegal has been ring fenced for the largest funding award in the country due to its number of surviving historic thatched structures. The new Thatching Grant is open for applications under the Built Heritage Investment Scheme until 4 p.m. on Friday, January 27. The scheme will be administrated by Donegal County Council and is funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
All historic thatched structures in County Donegal are eligible under this ring-fenced element of the scheme and it does not need to be on the Record of Protected Structures. This year’s grant scheme will provide support for approximately six large-scale re-thatching projects up to €15,000. The funding can provide for up to 80% of the total capital costs of works.
This grant scheme is in addition to other grants available for the maintenance, repair and conservation of thatched structures. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage’s Grant for the Renewal/Repair of Thatched Roofs is available for the repair or renewal of thatched roofs of owner-occupied houses (www.gov.ie/en/service/32e72-thatching-grant/)
Secondly, the Historic Structures Fund 2023 which is for the conservation and enhancement of historic structures and buildings may be of assistance to thatched property owners. This scheme is also open until 4 p.m. on Friday, January 27 and details of which can be found (www.donegalcoco.ie/services/planning/architectural%20conservation/architecturalconservationgrants2023/)
Thirdly, Donegal County Council’s award-winning Thatch Repair Grant Scheme assists the owners and occupiers of thatched dwellings and businesses with their maintenance and repair. This scheme will be open for its fifth year in the first quarter of 2023 and provides advice to owners on the conservation of thatched roofs, allocates funding for small-scale thatch repairs including repairs to the eaves, the ridge, flashings around the chimney, holes, furrows, fixings, ropes, wire netting, the gable and the roof timbers or carpentry. The Thatch Repair Grant Scheme is a cross‐directorate initiative between the County Donegal Heritage Office, Housing, Corporate & Culture Directorate and the Conservation Office, Community Development & Planning Services Directorate and is funded by Donegal County Council & The Heritage Council as part of the implementation of the County Donegal Heritage Plan.
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is working in collaboration with The Heritage Council and other stakeholders to resolve the national thatch crisis. The new vernacular built heritage strategy by the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage is currently being implemented including measures such as the undertaking of a national survey of thatched properties, gathering data on the incidence and causes of fire in thatched properties, engaging with the insurance sector and the Department of Finance and increasing funding options for owners of thatched properties.
Collette Beattie, Conservation Officer with Donegal County Council, commends this work at a national level. “It’s great that thatch is receiving this national support and this extra funding is another important source to help owners of thatched properties maintain their roofs. Over the last 10 years we have seen these once ubiquitous thatched cottages being wiped from the landscape at such an alarming rate that the thatched cottage may completely disappear in the next 10 years. This would be an irreplaceable loss to the County as these buildings help to tell the story of most Donegal families and now lend character to our cultural landscape. The conservation of our traditional buildings constitutes appropriate, sustainable and responsible development.” Advance consent for the replacement of historic thatched roofs is required from Donegal County Council as it constitutes a material alteration to the structure under the Donegal County Development Plan.
Joseph Gallagher, County Donegal Heritage Officer, sits on the National Thatch Steering Committee and welcomed this ring-fenced funding for thatched structures in Donegal. “This is not just a Donegal issue, it’s an all-Ireland problem and the thatch crisis has hit the headlines a number of times in the national press over the past year. The cost of thatching and on-going maintenance is one of the main difficulties for owners and they need this targeted funding support. There are also many other challenges that need to be tackled alongside funding. We know that we have a very small number of highly-skilled full-time or part-time thatchers so apprentices and apprenticeships are needed. We know that the demand for good-quality thatching materials outstrips current supply but there are opportunities for farmers to diversity and produce these crops on a commercial basis. We know that insurance on thatched buildings could be more competitive and affordable, but the insurance industry needs to demonstrate greater understanding of, and be better informed about the risks to, historic thatch. We know that there are local employment opportunities in conserving historic thatch, but these have not been recognised. We need all the key stakeholders such as the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage, The Heritage Council, Údarás na Gaeltachta, thatchers, training agencies, academic departments, farming organisations, open-air museums and the insurance industry to continue to work together as a matter of urgency to arrest and reverse this loss.”
Application forms to the Built Heritage Investment Scheme are available on-line from the Donegal County Council website at: www.donegalcoco.ie/services/planning/architectural%20conservation/architecturalconservationgrants2023/
or by contacting Collette Beattie, Conservation Officer at (074) 915 3900 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org