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18 June 2014
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Legacies - De-listing

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De- Listing - Crime Against Bricks And Mortar.

We have very few, good examples of old buildings and they are leading an increasingly precarious existence. As it is, barely a quarter of our houses predate the present Troubles.

Strong development pressure is leading to a disastrous loss of potentially restorable buildings. Listing is not just an academic exercise but an essential protection against drastic alteration, or outright demolition, of buildings that are capable of contributing vitality and elegance to our towns and countryside.

Northern Ireland`s first conservation area - Gracehill near Ballymena
If the top 3% of our buildings (the listed ones) are under such threat, what about the other 97%? Conservation areas were brought in from the mid 1970s to protect areas of townscape that did not merit statutory listing but had a quality that needed protection.

It is illegal to demolish buildings in such areas without consent, and initially grants were available for restoration of buildings within them.

The Planning Service introduced the concept of Areas of Townscape Character, some years ago, highlighting the quality of an area without being committed to spending a conservation area grant in it.

This has backfired, as it drew developers to the areas but provided no protection against demolition. In the event, conservation area grant has now been abolished too, while ATCs are both moneyless and toothless.

De-listing, why all the fuss?

Conservationists in Northern Ireland are very concerned at one of the side-effects of the second survey of listed buildings (where buildings presently listed are visited and found to have been altered).

The Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) appears to be choosing to de-list them rather than prosecute their owners.

The first survey was often carried out rather superficially, as the whole province had to be listed from scratch when legislation was introduced in 1972.

Political unrest made the process difficult and made access to interiors often impossible.

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