Donegal has been more badly served by it’s planning policies than anywhere else in Europe, a consultant in vernacular architecture told a Heritage Week meeting in Glencolmcille.

Dr Greg Stevenson is the Honorary Research Fellow in Vernacular Architecture at the University of Wales.

“It’s a great shame. The planning policies are there to serve the communities, and they haven’t really served the people very well,” he said.

“In Donegal, 27% of houses are empty, yet there is provision in the county development for 20% more holiday homes.”

“You’ve got some of the best vernacular architecture in the whole of the country here, particularly in southwest Donegal,” he said.

“It wouldn’t cost much to have a 100% emergency conservation grant. The problem often is finding the owner,” Dr Stevenson said.

There are over 400 traditional thatched cottages in the county. compared to a total of only 150 in the rest of Ulster.

Dr Stevenson acts as a consultant with Under the Thatch, a non-profit company which restores traditional cottages in Wales, then lets the restored buildings and uses the profits to fund further restoration.

This saves old buildings, and creates employment while preserving skills such as thatching and dry wall building.

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.