14 C O N T E X T 1 6 3 : M A R C H 2 0 2 0 to character, the relevance of intangible and associative factors (such as symbolism, memory and identity) is only fleetingly mentioned.These factors and their implications for identification and assessment of heritage significance deserve much greater attention, 6 particularly given that more integrated and inclusive approaches are increasingly seen as essential to both sustain- able urban development and effective built heritage conservation. 7 Third, although ratings of significance are assigned in the NIAH, this is not the case in RPSs. In part to address this, an owner or occupier of a protected structure can seek a dec- laration determining the full range of works that would not materially affect the character of the structure, and which would therefore not require planning permission. In theory, this system offers the potential to respond sensitively in each case, but it places a heavy burden on already stretched local authority resources. Moreover, the high level of default protection arguably leads to uncertainty around what aspects of a structure contribute to its character, and may even contribute to a public perception that protection is an unfair burden. 8 Fourth, ACAs have to date had varying levels of success, for example suffering from incon- sistent implementation and a perception that the designation can stifle change. 9 However, a number of amendments to the primary legisla- tion and guidance have been proposed, to create greater consistency, and to make it easier for local authorities to deploy the designation more frequently and effectively. A review of the operation of Part IV of the 2000 Act was published in 2016, indicating that the existing legislation on the whole works well, and proposing numerous refinements to legisla- tion and guidance rather than fundamental changes. While many proposed recommenda- tions have yet to emerge, some are already reflected in an increased emphasis in recent years on the instrumental role of heritage. This is evident, for example, in policies, grants and incentives that emphasise the role of the private sector in meeting employment and regenera- tion goals – echoing wider trends in planning over the last two decades.1⁰ However, there are risks should conservation become too reliant on the role of the private sector, coupled with comparatively low levels of direct state grant aid. This approach has the potential to shift the policy focus in favour of external capital (investors, tourists) at the expense of cultural priorities and local interests. This in turn has the potential in certain cases to exacerbate dereliction and decay, and even contribute to the erosion of a local sense of place and identity. Nevertheless, given that the national system of conservation-planning had been in existence for less than 10 years by the time of the 2008 financial crisis (which hit Ireland disproportionately hard), the system is arguably still in its infancy and relatively untested. The current system furthermore represents a very significant improvement in built herit- age protection. Alongside its history, this sets Irish conservation-planning apart and provides a distinctive context for the practice of historic building conservation in Ireland today. 6 Jones, S (2017) ‘Wrestling with the social value of heritage: Problems, dilemmas and opportunities’, Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage , 4(1), pp21–37 7Veldpaus, L, Pereira Roders, A R and Colenbrander, B J (2013)‘Urban heritage: putting the past into the future’, The Historic Environment: Policy & Practice , 4 (1), pp3–18 8 AHRRGA (Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs) (2016) Part iv Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended), Review of Operation Expert Advisory Committee Report,Volume 1. Dublin: Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs 9 Matthews,T and Grant-Smith, D (2017)‘Managing ensemble scale heritage conservation in the Shandon architectural conservation area in Cork, Ireland’, Cities , 62, pp152–158 10 Scott, M, Parkinson, A, Redmond, D andWaldron, R (2018)‘Placing Heritage in Entrepreneurial Urbanism: Planning, Conservation and Crisis in Ireland’, Planning Practice & Research (published online ahead of print, 15 February 2018), available at: https://doi.org/10.10 80/02697459.2018. 1430292 (Accessed 1 December 2019) Arthur Parkinson is assistant professor in planning and urban design at the school of architecture, planning and environmental policy, University College Dublin. Georgian houses in Fitzwilliam Street Lower, Dublin, were demolished in 1965 to construct offices for the state electricity provider. The street is pictured here in 2016.