The maximum amount of grant-aid which can be recovered for restoration work on historic buildings in Northern Ireland is being slashed by £200,000.
The upper limit on state aid payment for repairing and maintaining listed buildings is dropping from £250,000 to £50,000 due to high demand and a smaller funding pot, said the government.
New applications are also being suspended until the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) assesses the financial implications of the bids still in the system.
High profile restoration projects on landmarks such as the Ulster Hall, Belfast’s City Hall, the Ulster Museum and the Derry Playhouse have all benefited from the NIEA’s Historic Buildings Grant Aid Scheme since it was launched two and a half years ago.
More than 400 offers of assistance have been made since then.
There was no initial cap on payments but the £250,000 ceiling was introduced 12 months ago. The further reduction is a reflection of the continued popularity of the scheme, which provides up to 35 per cent of total funds required.
The NIEA can allocate £3.2 million this year for projects meeting the criteria. It had £4 million at its disposal last year.
Northern Ireland has around 8,500 listed buildings, making up 2 per cent of the total building stock .
As well as public landmarks, the scheme is also open to owners of listed private buildings.
The reduction to the grant aid cap will apply to applications received after July 5, 2010 which have not yet been issued a letter of offer.
The suspension on new applications will be reviewed in April.
The scheme of listing in Northern Ireland is as follows:
- Grade A: ‘buildings of greatest importance to Northern Ireland including both outstanding architectural set-pieces and the least altered examples of each representative style, period and type.’
- Grade B+: ‘buildings which might have merited grade A status but for detracting features such as an incomplete design, lower quality additions or alterations. Also included are buildings that because of exceptional features, interiors or environmental qualities are clearly above the general standard set by grade B buildings. A building may merit listing as grade B+ where its historic importance is greater than a similar building listed as grade B.’
- Grade B: ‘buildings of local importance and good examples of a particular period or style. A degree of alteration or imperfection of design may be acceptable.’