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Heritage permeates Wicklow’s identity and sense of place and make’s a significant contribution to the County’s character and quality of life. The County has a rich and varied heritage encompassing natural and built heritage elements. These include landscapes, national parks, flora, fauna, seascapes, monuments, archaeology, architecture, geology, heritage gardens and waterways. The National Planning Framework identifies enhanced amenities and heritage as a national strategic outcome. Heritage is afforded a high degree of protection through national legislation and local policy. The County Development Plan has an important role in safeguarding our heritage so it can be enjoyed by future generations. The Development Plan must identify objectives to balance the needs of the built, archaeological, cultural and natural heritage with the need to continue to develop Wicklow in a positive and sustainable manner.

County Wicklow Heritage Plan 2017 - 2022

The County Wicklow Heritage Plan 2017 – 2022 is the strategic approach to manage the County’s heritage. The Plan’s overall aim is to conserve the natural, built and cultural heritage of Wicklow and to foster a greater awareness, appreciation and enjoyment of this by all. The Heritage Plan provides one framework through which the Council works actively with other partner organisations on initiatives to further our understanding, protection and appreciation of Wicklow’s natural heritage resource.


Built Heritage

Built Heritage refers to all the man-made features, buildings and structures in the environment. This also includes a diverse archaeological and architectural heritage to be found throughout the countryside and in the County’s historic towns and villages. Architectural and archaeological heritage contributes significantly to the distinctive character and sense of place of our towns and villages. The National Planning Framework recognises that ‘Ireland’s built heritage assets are a non-renewable resource that merit being nurtured in a manner appropriate to their significance as an aid to understanding the past, contributing to community well-being and quality of life as well as regional economic development’.

The current County Development Plan identifies 17 Architectural Conservation Areas (ACAs) throughout the County. The County Development Plan also includes a Record of Protected Structures. This is a list of structures that are of special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest. There are approximately 698 protected structures in the County.

Natural Heritage

Wicklow has an abundance of natural heritage including mountains, lakes, rivers, woodlands and coastal areas. These areas support a wide variety of plant and animal species. At a European level, certain habitats and species are legally protected within the Natura 2000 network[1], incorporating Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). There are 14 SACs and 4 SPAs within or partly within the County. At a national level, there are 35 proposed Natural Heritage Areas. These areas include habitats that are in need of protection. In many cases the boundaries of the SACs, SPAs and NHAs overlap. The importance of our biodiversity is not restricted to Natura 2000 sites and proposed NHAs. The Council has an important role to play when it comes to promoting a reasonable balance between conservation measures and development needs, in order to avoid negative impacts on the natural environment, mitigate the effects of harm where it cannot be avoided and to promote the appropriate enhancement of the environment as an integral part of any development.

Heritage 2

[1] A network of sites protected under the European Habitats Directive and Birds Directive

Views and Prospects

The County Development Plan identifies views and prospects that are considered to be of the highest amenity value and therefore worthy of protection.  Some views prospects form a cohesive set, such as coastal or lake drives, while some appear suddenly and provide the viewer with a new and interesting angle on a natural feature or place.

Tree Preservation Orders (TPO)

Trees, individually or in groups, make a valuable contribution to the landscape, to the visual appeal of the County and to biodiversity. In urban areas they absorb carbon emissions and provide a visual relief. A TPO can be made if it appears to the planning authority that it is expedient, in the interests of amenity and the environment, to make provision for the preservation of any tree, trees, group of trees or woodlands. There are 64 TPOs identified in the current development plan.

Green Infrastructure

Green Infrastructure refers to a network of green spaces that help conserve natural ecosystems and provide associated benefits to people. It can include varying land uses such as woodlands, parks, formal and informal green spaces, waterways, wetland, and community/institutional lands. The Development Plan includes objectives to protect and enhance green infrastructure.

What do you think?

  • What aspects of Wicklow’s heritage do you consider should be protected?
  • How can we balance the need for new development against the protection of our natural environment?
  • Are there any buildings that should be added/removed from the Record of Protected Structures?
  • How can the County Development Plan encourage the reuse of historical buildings that have fallen into disuse?
  • Are there any other aspects such as views, trees or natural areas that should be afforded protection as part of the County Development Plan?
  • How can we encourage the use of green buildings, green streets or other green infrastructure as part of the built environment to enhance quality of life and adapting to climate change?