Skip to main content

Architectural conservation areas

At present in County Clare there are 35 adopted ACAs under the provisions of Section 81 of the planning & development act 2000 (as amended)

In accordance with the provisions of the Part IV Section 81 of the Planning & Development Act 2000 (as amended) a development plan shall include objectives to preserve the character of a place, area, group of structures or townscape that

  • is of special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest or value, or
  • contributes to the appreciation of Protected Structure.

These areas, places, etc. are known as Architectural conservation areas (ACAs).


Carrying out works to the exterior of a structure located in an ACA, which would materially affect the character of the area, will require planning permission.

Typical works

The following works to a building in an ACA may affect the character of an area and therefore require planning permission:

  • Removing render/plaster from a wall
  • Plastering an un-rendered wall
  • Changing the type of slate or roofing material
  • Changing the type, design or material of windows
  • Changing the design or materials of a shopfront
  • Changing the design or material of doors
  • Changing the design, dimensions, position or material of a chimne.
  • Changing the design or materials of window cills
  • Adding, removing or altering architectural details, elements, finishes such as quoins, mouldings, fascias, barges, ridge-tiles, jostle stones, paving or kerbing,chimney caps or pots, plaques, railings, gates etc.

Where there is doubt as whether or not works will affect the character of an area, advice should be sought from the Architectural Conservation Officer.

General note

Policies and objectives in County and local development plans provide information about how the planning authority will consider applications for works within ACA’s.

Enhancing towns and villages

Although ACAs are protected by policies, very often towns and villages, not designated as ACAs have a unique and important character and significance. Every effort should be made to preserve this amenity by controlling the design and materials of infill and adjacent development.

When a housing or commercial development is proposed to infill a gap in streetscape, the following items should be considered:

  • Chimneys – location, height, dimensions and material.
  • Ridge Tiles – material and profile.
  • Slates – salvaged, imported – natural or artificial.
  • Verges – Over-barges, under-barges, render flush to slate.
  • Eaves – Fascia and soffit - wood or uPVC, advanced eaves course of stone, concrete or plaster.
  • Rainwater goods – Cast iron, cast-aluminium, extruded aluminium, PVC.
  • Wall finishes – Smooth render, dash, stone, timber cladding, stone cladding, slate, window or door moulding, narrow or broad reveals, Quoins.
  • Windows – Wood, aluminium or uPVC. Sliding sash or casement (inward or outward opening). Dimensions, Profile – vertical or horizontal.Glazing bars, leaded panes, etc.
  • Cills – Stone, bullnozed concrete (traditional profile). Narrow concrete, flagstone (West Clare).
  • Doors – Timber or uPVC, Sheeted or pannelled. Fanlights (semi-circular or consertina).Side-lights. Glazed door panels.
  • Base Plinth – Advanced or recessed or none.
  • Solid to void – This is the traditional ratio between the solid and open (window) area of a wall. Very often modern street houses have too many windows shoved into a narrow space.
  • Simplicity and Balance

This is a feature of our urban buildings often lost in modern infill development. The pleasing symmetry of traditional buildings is achieved by placing openings in upper floors directly over openings on the ground floor. The arrangement of openings is designed in a regular way to make the appearance attractive.

  • Shopfronts
    Many people try unsuccessfully to replicate traditional shopfronts. Most are over sophisticated and ornate, losing the classical simplicity of past styles. A survey of the traditional shopfronts of Ennistymon was undertaken in 2002 by The Conservation Office and Project Ennistymon, containing photos and measured surveys of each shopfront. This is available to the public on request.

Streetscape enhancement initiative

Six Clare towns and villages have been selected as part of the 2021 Streetscape enhancement initiative. Tulla, Scariff, Clonlara, Kilrush, Corofin and Clarecastle have been named in the €7m nationwide scheme. The Streetscape Enhancement Initiative will provide funding to property owners to improve the facades of their buildings.

Architectural conservation areas in County Clare

The adoption of ACAs in the Development Plan allows the Planning Authority greater control of development within areas to ensure that future developments will enhance rather than detract from our important and attractive vernacular and formal rural and urban spaces. Relevant ACA policies will encourage new developments of a higher quality both from a design and material perspective.

ACA brochures which explain the advantages and implications of ACA designation are available from the Conservation Section, Planning Department.

The ACA provision is complimentary to the Record of Protected Structures, allowing a clear mechanism for the protection of areas, groups of structures or townscapes which are either of intrinsic special interest as defined or contribute to the appreciation of protected structures. It has the effect of de-exempting works to the exterior of any structure within an ACA, where the proposed works would materially affect the character of the area concerned.


A factor which makes a significant contribution to the architectural importance and character of the ACAs is the use of traditional, local, natural materials in the construction of buildings up to the mid 20th century. Where possible, these materials should be retained or re-instated.


Walls were invariably built of dressed or rubble limestone, in courses, set in lime mortar. From the mid 18th century onwards some houses were constructed of local hand-made bricks. By the mid 19thcentury factory brick had become popular.


Walls were for the most part rendered externally in rough-cast lime render. By the late 19th century this was often finished in smooth lime-render, sometimes incorporating features such as cornices, window-surrounds, quoins or shop-fronts in the same material.


Thatched roofs were a common feature until the mid 18th century when green Broadford or Killaloe slate became popular. During the 19th century Welsh Bangor blue or black slate often replaced both thatch and local slate. Stone barges over gables were generally replaced with concrete barges when Portland cement became popular in the late 19th century. Ridges were capped with clay or later concrete ridge-tiles.

Eaves were generally finished in a cornice or projecting course of stone or brick under the slate, without fascia or soffit. Cast-iron, glazed, sky-lights were often incorporated in roofs, particularly at the rear of buildings, in order to light attics, during the 19th century.


Late mediaeval chimneys were built of mortared, rubble stone. There are vestiges and examples of double and treble, diamond-shaped, stone chimneys, on buildings, in Abbey Street, O’Connell Street and Parnell Street, Ennis. These generally date from the period between 1580 and 1650. By the mid 18th century massive narrow brick chimneys replaced the wide stone-stacks on many Ennis buildings.


Late mediaeval windows consisted invariable of a cut-stone surround often divided by stone mullions and transomes, into which were inserted wooden casement windows or shutters. Very few of these remain today. By the mid 18th century most of these had been replaced by wooden sliding sash windows with small panes of glass between narrow, wooden glazing bars. The size of their panes or the design of their projecting horns can often date sash windows.

As technology in glass making improved, panes of glass became larger but the sash window remained popular in the town until the introduction of artificial, plastic and aluminium windows during the late 20th century. There are a few rare examples of wooden casement windows remaining in Abbey Street and Parnell Street in Ennis.

In order to make use of valuable attic space, wall-head dormer windows appear to have been a common feature of 17th century Ennis, but by the 18th century their popularity appears to have waned, considerably.


Early doors and gates were generally sheeted and braced with planks and were often hung on stone hangers or pintles, some examples of which remain in Ennis. During the 18thand 19thcenturies these were generally replaced by wooden panelled doors, very often with elaborate door-cases and fanlights, as can be seen in Bindon Street.


Projecting window cills were not a feature of mediaeval buildings. By the 18th century, with the introduction of sash windows, stone cills became standard. At first, they were simply natural flagstones, dressed to fit, but by the end of the century an industry had built up producing cut, limestone cills. The design of these cills remained vitually unchanged until the introduction of concrete window cills in the 1930s and 1940s.


Early shopfronts were generally quite small and often incorporated the door and shop window under a single arch or wooden lintel. These are very rare in Ennis as are authentic, original 19th and early 20th century shopfronts. These were generally constructed in wood to a standard, classical design although similar style shopfronts were often constructed in render during the mid 20th century.

Architectural conservation areas – Ennis

Image of Chapel Lane, Ennis, 1910

Chapel lane, Ennis, 1910


The name Ennis is derived form I nis Cluain Rámha Fhada (The Island Meadow of the Long Rowing), as boats had to be rowed, against the current, from the Fergus Estuary to the island.This area and name was later divided into Ennis and Clonroad. The mediaeval town of Ennis developed around O’ Brien’s Castle at Clonroad and the nearby Franciscan Friary of Ennis, during the mid-thirteenth century. The present streets of Abbey Street, O’ Connell Street and Parnell Street originally linked the Square or “The Height” with the Friary, the Tower-house (Old Ground Hotel) and the Mill, respectively. Although much of the late mediaeval fabric of Ennis was demolished during the 1960s and 1970s, many buildings, features and artefacts remain to indicate its early origins. Among these are:

  • Ennis Franciscan Friary c.1280AD
  • The Old Ground Tower house c.1500 AD
  • McParland’s House, Parnell Street c.1600 AD
  • Cruises Pub, Abbey Street 1658
  • Abbacabra building Abbey Street c.1600 AD
  • Brogan’s and Maurer’s O’ Connell Street c.1650 AD
  • Wall plaque discovered during demolition at 10 Abbey Street, dated 1661 AD
  • Wall plaque discovered during demolition, Lower Parnell Street, dated 1682 AD
  • Stone gate hanger at rear of Tobin’s O’ Connell Street c.1600 AD
  • Stone door hangers, at Leahy Associates (Architects), Harveys Quay c.1600 AD
  • Vestiges of the old courthouse, The Square c.1630
  • The Cloister, Bar and Restaurant, Abbey Street c.1650 AD

Image of map of the Architectural Conservation Areas in Ennis

Map of the architectural conservation areas in Ennis


For further information on Architectural Conservation Areas (ACA) in County Clare see Appendix 4 of

Volume 1 Clare County Development Plan 2017 - 2023: Written Statement [PDF,32.6MB]

and for the Record of Protected Strucures please view

Volume 4 Clare County Development Plan 2017-2023: Record of Protected Structures [PDF, 13.7MB]

The geographical distribution of the above items show that Ennis was well developed in its present form by the early 17thcentury, despite being burned twice by Aodh Ó Domhaill during the nine years war (1594-1603). The town received its first Royal Charter in 1613 and Ennis Corporation was established.

During the following centuries Ennis continued to expand and prosper, in spite of the Cromwellian and Jacobite wars of the mid to late 17th century. A huge increase in population during the late 18th and early 19th centuries saw the town expand into neighbouring townlands, mainly in the form of rows of single storey, thatched cottages at Drumbiggle, the Turnpike and the Galway Road, known as the "Bóithrín". During the same period many large three-storey early Georgian houses were erected by the merchant and professional classes. Among these are The Old Ground Hotel and Mannions’ Travel Agents, O’Connell St., McBeal’s Pub, Carmody St. and Abbey Field House, Abbey St. The finest building dating from this period in Ennis is probably "The Erasmus Smith Academy" 1775, College Rd. now part of Coláiste Muire School.

Prosperity, derived mainly from the export of corn, butter and hides led to the construction of Bindon Street, 1830s and Bank Place, 1850s, while impressive public buildings e.g. The County Gaol, The Ennis Workhouse, The Fever Hospital, Our Lady’s Psychiatric Hospital, The Court House, St. Flannan’s College, The Mercy Convent, The Christian Brothers’ Schools and three Neo-Gothic churches were erected in the town during the 19thcentury.

Although the County Gaol, The Workhouse and most of the Fever Hospital and Convent have been demolished since 1950, the town of Ennis still retains much of its late mediaeval and early modern character. It is important that we preserve and enhance what remains of Old Ennis for the benefit of future generations.


In accordance with Part IV, Chapter II, Section 81 of The Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended), it is an objective of Clare County Council to preserve the character of certain areas of the town of Ennis which are of special architectural, historic, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, technical or social interest.

Appraisal of Ennis town centre

As mentioned in the introduction, Ennis is a town which has steadily developed since the mid thirteenth century. Although many changes have occurred in the town since the mediaeval period, it still retains its ancient character to a great extent. This is indicated by its narrow streets, stone buildings, laneways, bow-ways etc. Because much of the centre of Ennis existed before the year 1700, it is designated as an Archaeological Zone (No. CL033-082-, Historic Town) in The Record of Monuments and Places, published by Dúchas, The Heritage Service.

The older part of Ennis, which for the most part consists of narrow, winding streets and lanes, following the pattern of the River Fergus, predominantly dates from the 13thto the 18thcenturies. This is confined to the area around Abbey, O’Connell and Parnell Streets while the later impressive public and private and buildings of the 19thcentury are found toward the outer boundaries of this ACA. These include the fine Georgian buildings of Bindon Street, the mills and corn-stores of Old Mill Street and the Classical Courthouse and the nearby attractive simple formality of Steele’s Terrace to the north. Most commercial activity is still confined to the old centre of Ennis while the later buildings on the outskirts in general, retain their original professional, educational and residential use.

Appraisal of Our Lady's hospital complex, Gort Road

This extensive complex of ashlar-limestone buildings, originally known as The County Lunatic Asylum was completed in 1868. Although many additions have since been made to the original buildings, it still retains practically all its original structures. These were invariably built using high quality materials, techniques and design, which with the large open areas of lawn and vegetation create an illusion of tranquility and space.

The complex contains eight protected structures and it is important that any future development on this site will respect the integrity of the existing buildings and features.

Architectural conservation areas currently being appraised:

  • St. Claire’s Terrace, Clonroad. c.1935
  • Terrace of single-storey houses, New Rd., c.1870
  • Terrace of single-storey houses, beside barracks, Kilrush Rd. c.1870
  • Terrace of single-storey houses, Station Rd. / Clonroad. 1928
  • St. Flannan’s Terrace, Clare Rd., 1904 and Clonroad Mór 1912
  • St. Patrick’s Terrace, Limerick Rd. c.1890

The above ACAs consist of terraces of single and two storey houses constructed between 1870 and 1935. Although less formal than many other buildings in Ennis their simple and well-proportioned designs and their use of natural and local building materials give them a high visual amenity value which makes a considerable contribution to the character of the various approaches to the town.

Page last reviewed: 10/03/22

Content managed by: Planning Department

Back to top


Planning Department
Clare County Council
Áras Contae an Chláir
New Road
Co. Clare
V95 DXP2
(065) 684 6426
(065) 684 6407
Opening hours
9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday – Friday closed Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. Phone lines: 9.00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
More details and map