A group of architecture graduates visiting the Village redevelopment site were “appalled” to discover thieves had removed ornate brick work from some of the vested homes that currently lie empty.
Last Friday January 14, the group of students were touring the Village and Monarch redevelopment site when they expressed their concerns over the loss of ornamental air bricks among the terraced houses on Lower |Rockview Street.
Local resident Billy Dickson said: “Lower Rockview Street in the Village and Monarch redevelopment area is one of the most architecturally interesting streets in the area — the architecture graduates seemed very impressed by the elaborate brick work existing in the area in general.
“The graduates were appalled by the amount of damage to a number of the houses in Lower Rockview Street where ornate air bricks had been removed. The air bricks with their different patterns are one of the most interesting features about terraced housing and are in demand by firms who sell reclaimed bricks and antiques.
“It is suspected that the air bricks were stolen in order to make money from the sale of them. When the Housing Executive were contacted about the situation by local residents, they were informed that they already were aware of the problem and also concerned not only about Lower Rockview Street but other streets where there had been theft.
“The NIHE said they were working closely with the PSNI in dealing with the problem.”
The red brick terraces are a defining characteristic of this city, however government-led urban renewal schemes have resulted in loss of entire historic neighbourhoods. It is a 1960s approach to regeneration which has been widely criticised.
Rita Harkin, research officer at Ulster Architectural Heritage Society said: “We were all appalled by what we saw on the street, but this is what happens when property is bricked up in this way and people move out — the vandals will always move in. While the thieves have been busy removing the ornamental ventilation bricks in one of the streets with the most architectural detailing, there is still time to arrest the decline.
“In the Village area 538 houses have been earmarked for demolition, despite the fact that the majority were shown to be in good condition.”