Belfast has a vast array of historically important buildings that reflect how the city has evolved. Even though these buildings have been labeled as protected, they are still at risk of demolition. The PAC (Public Accounts Committee) has said that the "body responsible for safeguarding the buildings is not doing enough to protect the most vulnerable." The list displayed below is of the buildings in Belfast that are currently at risk.
- Frames Bar;
- Crumlin Road Courthouse (Graded B+);
- The Tech (Graded B+);
- Ewart Building Bedford Street (Graded B1);
- Bank of Ireland Royal Avenue (Graded B+);
- Haymarket Building and associated buildings (Graded B1) ;
- Northern Bank (Assembly Buildings) Donegall Street (Graded B+);
- Carlisle Circus Methodist Church (Graded B+);
- St Josephs RC Church Sailortown (Graded B+);
- May Street Presbyterian Church (Graded B+);
- Donegall Arcade (Graded B+) ;
- Musgrave Street police station;
- Whole of Library Quarter; and
- Lisburn Road Methodist Church.
In the United Kingdom, historically important building are noted as a “listed building,” which deems them protected from demolition, extension, or any sort of alteration without special permission. Buildings are designated as protected due to special architectural or historic interest. Northern Ireland grades listed buildings in accordance to the following:
Grade B+: "buildings which might have merited grade A status but for detracting features such as an incomplete design, lower quality additions or alterations. A building may merit listing as grade B+ where its historic importance is greater than a similar building listed as grade B1;”
The fact that the majority of the buildings to be demolished are also listed buildings is something that calls for further investigation. Some consider a few of the buildings to be derelict; therefore, the land could be used for a greater purpose - such as a new development. On the other hand, there is the thought that these buildings are listed for a particular reason, and should be kept in their historical state. The original architecture could be maintained, but the function of the interior could be altered to provide an actively used building.
The body responsible for the protection of these buildings is NIEA (Northern Ireland's Environmental Agency). Currently there are around 8,500 listed buildings in Northern Ireland, of which 10% are owned by the public sector. So far the approach to this crisis is that the Environment Minister has raised the grant-aid for listed buildings from £50,000 to £150,000.
Is throwing more money at the issue a cure, or a temporary cover up? What more do you think could be done to improve the protection of these listed buildings?
Credits: Images by James Foskett. Data linked to sources.