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UAHS scathing of DoE decision

By Staff Reporter

Rita Harkin from the UAHS was scathing of the minister in her response.

“The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society believes the Minister has made a grave error in this case,” she said.  “First and foremost he has ignored the verdict of the Conservation Area Officer, Conservation Area Architect and original case officer that the loss of the 19th century warehouse and the proposed redevelopment would cause harm to the Conservation Area.  This ‘no-harm test’ is the fundamental test for assessing development proposals in conservation areas. He claims he exhausted all options to save the linen warehouse, but this is clearly not the case. The building was not placed on the open market as policy and the Department’s own Conservation Officer recommended. In addition, he has based his decision on costings which are incomplete and fundamentally flawed, matters which were brought to his attention before the decision was issued.”

She went on to accuse the Minister of contradictory actions and added that the UAHS is currently seeking legal advice about the options left open to them.

“When granting leave for the first judicial review application made by the Society, Mr Justice Weatherup said: ‘When it comes to Conservation Area buildings it seems to me there are considerations that go beyond the economic case.’ However, the evidence here falls considerably short of making the case for the demolition of this historic warehouse even on purely economic grounds.  In fact, its loss diminishes the potential for long-term regeneration of the area which depends on reinforcing local distinctiveness.”

Declan Hill of the Forum for Alternative Belfast was equally disapproving of the judgment.

“I think it’s dreadful,” he said.  “It’s incredibly disappointing that the day after the MAC opens in the Cathedral Quarter, the decision is announced to demolish one of our significant industrial buildings.

“I had hoped Alex Attwood would have shown some respect for this building but that isn’t the case.”

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