Protection under the Act on the Protection of the Built Heritage - Finnish Heritage Agency Protection under the Act on the Protection of the Built Heritage
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Protection under the Act on the Protection of the Built Heritage

The aim of the Act on the Protection of the Built Heritage (498/2010) is to protect the temporal and spatial diversity of the built cultural environment, safeguard its special characteristics and features, and promote its culturally sustainable maintenance and use.

Based on the Act, the protection may cover structures, building groups and built areas, in addition to individual buildings. These must have significance from the perspective of the building’s history, architecture, construction technique, special environmental values, the building’s use, or the events connected to it. The protection may also cover part of a building, the fixed indoor structures, or another area created through construction or by planting vegetation.

The Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres) and the Finnish Heritage Agency promote and monitor the preservation of the built heritage, in accordance with the Act on the Protection of the Built Heritage.

The Finnish Heritage Agency acts as a specialist in matters related to preserving built heritage. When a protection case is pending, the Agency assesses the site’s culture-historical value and makes a proposal on the protection regulations and focal points, when necessary. For built Sámi heritage, the specialist is Sámi Museum Siida, in cooperation with the Finnish Heritage Agency. In addition to this, the regional museum in charge may act as a specialist in its area of operations, in cooperation with the Finnish Heritage Agency.

In areas subject to an urban area plan, it will be considered whether the protection will take place under area planning or the Act on the Protection of the Built Heritage. The primary choice is area planning, but the Act on the Protection of the Built Heritage may also be used if the site is of national important, if its preservation and protection cannot be ensured through the Land Use and Building Act, or if there are special reasons for protecting the site because of the area planning situation.

A protection proposal may be filed by:

the site’s owner

  • a government authority
  • the regional council
  • the local museum in charge and the municipality in which the building is located
  • a registered community, if the site is in its area of operations and its operations involve safeguarding cultural heritage or influencing the quality of built environment
  • the Sámi Parliament, if the matter is related to the built heritage of the Sámi
  • the Skolt Sámi siida council, if the matter is related to the built heritage of the Skolt Sámi.

The proposal must be submitted in writing, and it must include arguments in favour of protecting the building. The proposal must include the information about the building’s location and its owner or holder, if possible.

The ELY centre will make the decision on the matter of protection. The decision will become legally valid if it is not appealed to an Administrative Court.

Before its decision, the ELY Centre will hear the owner and holder of the building and property, as well as the neighbours adjacent and opposite to the site. It will also request statements from the Finnish Heritage Agency, the municipality, and, at its discretion, other communities necessary for the resolution of the matter. This may be the Museum of Finnish Architecture, a scientific society in the field or an operator in the local heritage movement.

In the home region of the Sámi and in matters regarding built Sámi heritage, a statement will also be requested from the Sámi Parliament and Sámi Museum Siida. In the Skolt region and in matters regarding built Skolt heritage, a statement must also be requested from the Skolt Sámi siida council.

The ELY Centre may also arrange a meeting with the concerned parties to discuss the matter and present their opinions on the protection.

Sites protected based on the law may be valuable at a national, regional or local level. The significance of a site is assessed using six criteria:

  • the site is rare or unique (rarity);
  • the site is historically typical for the area (typicality);
  • the site has typical features of the area or a certain era (representativity);
  • the original or equivalent use of the site continues, or its construction method, architecture or style remains evident (originality);
  • the site offers significant proof of a historic event or phenomenon, or provides an example describing and giving further information on a historic event or phenomenon (historic proof); or
  • the structures, materials and stylistic features from various eras illustrate the history and continuity of the site’s construction, maintenance and use (historical stratification).

Not all criteria need to be met. Usually, the criteria also overlap with each other.

Surveys, inventories and other reliable material on the cultural environment are used in the assessment. There may also be reports on architectural history available regarding the site’s characteristics and preservation rate. When preparing its statement, the Finnish Heritage Agency will also inspect matters on-site.

The protection decision of the ELY Centre will state the protected site and the limits of its area, the protection regulations and their focal points, for example, the appearance, interior, fixtures and the surroundings of the buildings. Naturally, a protected building must not be demolished. The protection regulations ensure the preservation of the building’s cultural-historical value, and the aim is to prepare the regulations in cooperation with the building’s owner and holder.

The protection regulations may involve maintaining the building in a condition required to protect it, usage appropriate for the cultural-historical value, restoration and renovation work in accordance with the protection objectives, and communications with the authorities supervising the protection, particularly in connection with renovations or alterations.

During the protection process, the ELY Centre may prohibit all activities potentially harmful to the building’s cultural-historical value. At the same time, the owner or holder may be obligated to perform necessary safeguarding actions to secure the site.

When renovations or alterations are planned for a protected site, a statement will be requested from the Finnish Heritage Agency regarding the plans. In projects that require a building permit, the building control authority will need a statement from the Finnish Heritage Agency to process the permit application.

The Finnish Heritage Agency will evaluate whether the plan is in line with the protection objectives and the provisions of the protection decision. If necessary, the Finnish Heritage Agency will provide instructions for developing the plan, and implementing and documenting the work. The building developer will be responsible for guaranteeing that the protection remains successful.

It is recommended that the Finnish Heritage Agency be contacted as early as possible, when the planning is started. Communications during the project can also be agreed on at that point. For renovation or alteration projects that require a building permit, the usual contact person is the lead designer. On special grounds, the Finnish Heritage Agency may take part in the steering of the planning or implementation.

At the request of the protected site’s owner or holder, the ELY Centre may grant permission to deviate from the protection decision.

The grounds for deviation may include the following:

  • a damaged part of the site endangers the appropriate use of the site or the preservation of the values related to the protection
  • the protection prevents the use of the site for its purpose or its alteration for a new appropriate purpose
  • there are other particularly substantial reasons for deviation that support the use or maintenance of the site.

Deviations are applied for in writing to the ELY Centre. The application must include grounds for it and a specification of which sections of the protection decision would be deviated from. The appendices must include a plan of the operations that require deviation. The owner’s approval is required for an application made by a party other than the owner.

The permission for deviation cannot be granted if the building would no longer meet the protection requirements as a result of the deviation. As with protection matters, the ELY Centre must hear the concerned parties and request statements regarding the deviation. The ELY Centre will inform the building control authority of the local municipality of the decision on the deviations.