Page last updated at 16:26 GMT, Friday, 7 August 2009 17:26 UK

Belfast building to be demolished

 41-49 Queen Street
The Edwardian warehouse at 41-49 Queen Street is set to be demolished. (Picture: The News Letter)

Heritage campaigners may launch a legal bid to stop a developer from demolishing an Edwardian building in Belfast city centre and replacing it with a nine storey apartment block.

The former warehouse was constructed in 1911 and stands at the corner of Queen Street and College Street.

It is located within Belfast City Centre Conservation Area, but a planning application to tear it down was passed in June this year with only one objection lodged.

The developer, Carlisle Property Developments Ltd, wants to transform the site into a tower block which will include 69 new apartments, street level shops and an underground car park.

The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS) wants a judicial review of the decision and hopes to hear back from the Department of Environment on the issue within days.

The society's research officer, Rita Harkin, says that she "wasn't remotely worried" when she heard about the application, thinking it would be "an open and shut case" for the Planning Service.

She points out that in other cities like New York, similar old buildings "with their great high ceilings" are converted into much sought after 'loft style' apartments.

According to Ms Harkin, a conservation officer employed within the DOE argued for the building to be saved, stating that the old warehouse "makes a significant material contribution to the architectural and historic interest/character of the area."

However the building will not be entirely wiped from the Belfast streetscape.

The original door and corner turret is to be carefully preserved during the demolition process and incorporated into the replacement building.

Planning Service response

In a statement, the Planning Service said that a previous application had been approved over a decade ago, to construct an eight storey office block on the site.

Permission for that scheme was granted in June 1998, just a matter of weeks after the Belfast City Centre Conservation Area was officially designated.

A Planning Service spokesperson pointed out that the conservation area would therefore "have been made in the knowledge that the Athletic Stores building was about to be granted permission to be demolished and replaced".

The statement continued: "The previous approval, the structural condition of the building and the quality of the building to be constructed are important material considerations in the decision to grant planning permission."

The Planning Service also said it is "content that it made the correct decision having regard to its policies and procedures and is prepared to defend its position should a judicial review proceed."

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