Calls to protect historic buildings after Vernon Mount blaze

Heritage groups have called for the full implementation of planning laws and for more state funding to protect at-risk historic buildings after one of the country’s finest Georgian villas was gutted in a suspected arson attack.

Calls to protect historic buildings after Vernon Mount blaze

The shell of the privately owned unoccupied 18th century Vernon Mount House in Cork was declared unsafe yesterday, fuelling fears it could face demolition after a huge fire destroyed the roof, floors, ornate plasterwork, and ceiling paintings by Nathaniel Grogan.

It took almost 30 firefighters almost 10 hours to bring the blaze under control.

The fire broke out on Sunday despite warnings to Cork County Council last month that vandals were still entering and damaging the building. Local campaigners also said it was clear wood was being stockpiled inside.

The Grange/Frankfield Partnership, a voluntary group which had been building a coalition of partners in a bid to save the home, said it was devastated. “A cultural asset of incredible richness has been brutally and senselessly destroyed in a mindless act of vandalism,” said spokesman Ger Lehane.

Last week, the Georgian mansion at Belcamp in Fingal, Dublin, designed by White House architect James Hoban and which has been vacant for 10 years, also suffered extensive fire damage. Both properties are part of An Taisce’s Building at Risk Project. Vernon Mount also appeared on the World Monuments Fund List of 100 Most Endangered Sites following the intervention of the Irish Georgian Society in 2008.

Despite being privately owned by US-based investor Jonathan Moss, more than €100,000 of public money was pumped into the near-derelict property since 2012 in a bid to halt its decline.

Campaigners said the State has legal powers to force the owners of such historic buildings to take steps to protect them. But they claimed there appears to be a lack of will, and a lack of resources, to fully implement the laws. “The fire highlights the continuing failure of Irish planning legislation to enforce the maintenance of legally protected historic buildings,” An Taisce said.

Anyone with information should contact Togher Garda Station on 021-4947120.

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