According to its relative value, the immovable cultural heritage may be listed as bearing national interest, public interest or municipal interest. An asset shall be considered of national interest where its protection and enhancement, in whole or in part, represent a significant cultural value for the nation. Any national interest property, be it a monument, a group of buildings or a site, is deemed to be a “national monument”. An asset shall be considered of public interest where its protection and enhancement, though representing a cultural value of national importance, prove to be disproportionate under the protection system inherent to national interest classification. Assets shall be considered of municipal interest where their protection and enhancement, in whole or in part, represent a prevailing cultural value within the scope of a municipality.
The administrative procedure for listing an immovable property is set in motion by the DGPC in liaison with the cultural directorates for culture (according to their respective operation area). However, any natural or legal person, public or private, citizen or foreign national, State-owned or from the Autonomous Regions, any local authority can, under the law, submit an application for listing an asset.
The listing of a cultural property as of national interest is a responsibility of the competent State authorities (the Council of Ministers) who will, for that purpose, issue a Government decree. Public interest classifications are the responsibility of the competent State authorities (the government department in charge of culture, which is currently the Secretary of State for Culture) or of the Autonomous Regions, if the property is located there. An ordinance will be issued for this purpose. Municipal interest properties are the responsibility of the municipalities even though the DGPC needs to issue a favourable report.
The law also provides for other categories of property, namely a "Monument", "Group of Buildings" and a "Site" according to international law (Granada Convention).
In mainland Portugal, it is up to the DGPC to propose to the Government the listing of national interest and public interest assets. When the administrative procedure is set in motion, DGPC is to apply the definition of relevant cultural interest required for any national cultural heritage in pursuance with no. 3 of article 2 of Law no. 107/2001 of 8 September and the general criteria laid out in article 17 therewith.
Decree Law no. 309/2009 of 23 October, which has been in force since 1 January 2010, regulates the procedure for listing property.
Legally Protected Cultural Heritage Areas
Heritage listing extends its strategic scope through the creation of general and special protection zones, i.e., protection areas where no building works are authorised without prior consent from the competent cultural heritage authority. They may include non aedificandi areas (ZNA - where all types of construction are prohibited) which are meant to create buffer zones for minimising buildings impacts or safeguarding archaeological sites.
Any assets awaiting listing automatically benefit from a general protection area (ZEP) extending for 50 m around their external boundaries (this protection being granted from the date of the decision to open the procedure for listing an asset) or from a provisional special protection area (ZEPP) that is laid out when the general protection zone is insufficient or inappropriate for protecting and enhancing an asset awaiting listing. In this case the size of the ZEPP shall depend on the level of protection and enhancing of an immovable asset and may include non aedificandi areas.
Listed immovable properties may benefit from a special protection zone (ZEP), to be established by an ordinance, which is laid out at the time of the final decision for listing or within a period of 18 months from the date of publication of the final decision. This procedure is compulsory for monuments but optional for groups of buildings and sites (whenever it is deemed essential to ensure integration with the architecture, landscape and urban setting and also from the visual point of view).
The effects of establishing a general protection zone or a provisional special protection zone on a listed property, for a national interest or a public interest property, will remain in force until the publication of the special protection zone. The special protection zone ensures the landscape and visual integration of a given property including the green areas that are relevant to the context.
Whenever there is a building intervention on the special protection zone of a property that has been listed or is awaiting listing, it is up to the DGPC and the cultural regional directorates (DRC) to give a binding advice about studies, projects and works, and to monitor implementation of urban planning instruments.
Among its responsibilities, the DGPC and the DRCs also give advice on pre-emption rights in case of sale or donation of immovable property that has been listed, or is in the process of being listed, or located in a protection zone.