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Decision ‘sets dangerous precedent’

By Paul Ainsworth

THE decision to demolish a historical city centre building could set a “dangerous precedent” for South Belfast’s unique architectural heritage, it has been claimed.

The Victorian building on Queen Street which currently houses the Athletic Stores, was home to a cuff and collar manufacturer at the height of the linen boom in Belfast, and the South Belfast-based Ulster Architectural and Heritage Society (UAHS) have said it stands as a monument to the city’s industrial past.

A recent Planning Committee meeting at City Hall backed a Planning Service decision to demolish the building in order to build apartments, while the UAHS had launched a judicial review into the original decision by the Planning Service in 2009 to send in the wrecking ball.

Speaking with the South Belfast News, the UAHS’ Rita Harkin said: “If Environment Minister Alex Attwood does not address this, our only window of opportunity will be to go before the courts again.

“It could be our last gasp attempt at saving this important building. Much is made of our city’s heritage, particularly the Victorian era and the linen trade, so why on earth are we trying to get rid of such links to the past?

“There needs to be balance between conservation and commerce, such as redeveloping these sites but keeping the original facades and making them suitable for the 21st century, otherwise we will end up with generic modern buildings everywhere.

“In South Belfast particularly, we have many fine examples of architecture, and if they can demolish the Athletic Stores building, then it sets a dangerous precedent for other areas. A few years ago we lost historical buildings on the Dublin Road, while the red brick terrace fronts of the village are rapidly disappearing. Our built heritage is now at risk, and we need to address that before it’s too late.”



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