The Local Government Act 1991 enhanced the general powers of the local authority to take step in accordance with law to promote the interests of its community. This could include social, economic, environmental, recreational, cultural, and general development. It could finance or co-finance programmes of economic, recreational, cultural community and general development activity.
The Act provides for recreational services including sports, games, and activities, recreational and leisure activities, environmental heritage, protection, improvement, amenity, artistic and cultural services.
Local authorities’ functions include the provision of a democratic forum and the promotion of the community interest. In undertaking such functions, local authorities must have regard to available and efficient use of monies. The priority is to maintain essential services. They may co-operate with private parties and organizations. They must promote social inclusion and sustainable development.
Local authorities have powers to provide or assist in the provision of swimming pools. In the past, local authorities constructed or assisted a significant number of swimming pools. They may enter ventures with swimming club and leisure centre operators.
Swimming pools have been constructed with the assistance of government grants orchestrated by the Department responsible for sport.
Facilities & Amenities
Local authorities may exercise a compulsory acquisition powers in relation to construction of the facility. Bylaws may be made in relation to its regulation and used.
Local authorities have powers to provide pleasure grounds and parks. Planning conditions may require the provision of parks within a housing development.
Councils have general powers to provide public parks as amenity. Councils maintain a large number of parks and public open spaces.
The major local authorities are library authorities. There are over 300 libraries employing 1,000 thousand people.
The Public Libraries Act 1947, established the Library Council with members from educational bodies, the HEA, the local authority association and government appointees. Their function is to advise local authorities and promote cooperation.
Library authorities have authority to provide premises and facilities including mobile premises. They may engage in educational, cultural and recreational activities and events. Local authorities must provide a program for the development of library services.
Councils in some cases have formed joint library committees as library authorities. Their functions are set out in the legislation. An Chomhairle Leabharlanna is continued in being and its functions are set out.
Records & Archives
Local authorities must make arrangements for the management, custody, care and conservation of local records and archives. They may acquire them by purchase, donation or loan. They may maintain and archive material of local interest.
Many local authorities maintain archives in their principal libraries. Archives hold local authority material as well as other local materials. Local authorities are also obliged under freedom of information to maintain their own records.
Arts Culture & Events
The Arts Act gives local authorities power to assist persons with money, services or facilities.
Local authorities may provide accommodation and workspaces for artists. They may encourage arts in schools and community participation. They may promote cultural events.
They may organise exhibitions and events which will stimulate interest in the public arts, promote knowledge, appreciation and the practice of arts or assist in improving standards of art. The function is a reserved function of the elected members.
Local authorities may make grants to promote locals festivals, cultural activities and artistic events. They may assist artists. Art officers may be employed with co-funding by the arts council.
Local authorities may provide concert halls, theatres and opera houses. They may provide assistance to private theatres and opera houses.
Local authorities may promote the Irish language in the performance of their function. Individual authorities particularly those in the Gaeltacht may take steps to promote the use of Irish.
The Department may provide codes of practice in relation to the use of Irish in local government. This can include local authority correspondence and language promotion generally.
Local authorities have developed partnership arrangements with central government. They may employ an Irish officer to promote use of Irish and bilingualism.
The urban and village renewal schemes were designed to improve town centres and villages. Under schemes, grant aids are provided to local authorities which finance measures to rejuvenate cultural and economic life, rehabilitate buildings, restore or preserve architecture and heritage. The scheme is in addition to the planning process.
Assistance may be provided to local and community groups and voluntary organizations for the promotion of amenities and local services. Local authorities promote blue flags, tidy towns etc.
Local authorities may provide museums and cultural facilities. The Heritage Council promotes local authority provided museums. Co-funding may be available from central government
Local authorities may provide heritage services. Heritage officers may be appointed jointly with the Heritage Council. Local authorities may make a heritage plan The Heritage Council may provide support and guidance to a local authority on heritage issues.
Heritage considerations are part of the planning process. The local authority’s protected structures include buildings of architectural, historical, archaeological or cultural significance or interest.
The Heritage Council was formed in 1995. A number of heritage officers have been appointed in most council areas in conjunction. They prepare local heritage plans, advise local authorities staff, carry out heritage appraisals, and liaise with agencies and individuals.
Heritage Officers, coordinate their activities with local forums, stage agencies, community groups, and heritage organizations in preparing the plan. They identify preserve and conserve heritage within the local authority’s The plans are for five year period identifying priority issues.
The 1999 Planning and Development Act made enhanced provision for the protection of the built heritage. Protected structures were introduced as an enhanced protection status to that which had existed. The protection may cover the building, the internal features and characteristics.
A protected structures requires a permission similar to planning permission for works affecting these features. The normal exemption for internal works is excluded. The legislation required the local authorities to compile a register of protected structures. They may be buildings of special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social, or technical interest.
The 2000 Act provided for designation of architectural conservation areas. Protection may extend to elements and features of the building including the inside and curtilage of the building,
Conservation officers are appointed to inspect and survey buildings, assess architectural importance, provide advice, negotiate and advise owners, local group The authority may provide schemes for grants and conservation etc.
Each planning authority is obliged to provide policy objectives to avoid protection of th the heritage in development plan. Similar principles applied to areas designation as architectural conservation areas.