Residents last night spoke of their “absolute shock” after the historical homes of Gustav Wolff — of Harland and Wolff fame — which they fought to save, were demolished.
The two 19th century cottages in east Belfast were last summer spot listed by the Environmental Heritage Service (EHS) after a campaign was launched to prevent their destruction.
Hundreds of letters, emails and phonecalls were made by the group of the Palmerston Residents' Association in the nine-month battle.
But yesterday Terry Hoey, chairman of Palmerston Residents' Association, found the two unique cottages in the Station Road area had been razed to the ground.
Mr Wolff, one of Belfast's most famous adopted sons, set-up home along the Palmerston Road living on an estate called the Den while spearheading the most famous shipyard in the world.
After decades of development all that was left of his estate were the two cottages.
Mr Hoey said: “We fought to get a preservation order—and we got it last year. This is just a scandal. We are devastated that such buildings with historical value are destroyed for development. We had plans to develop them into a museum.
“Now there is nothing left but rubble. The people who are really missing out are the children, who will never get to see these buildings in their full glory. If this continues all of the area's history will be wiped out,” he added.
A spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) said they were aware the historic buildings, previously the subject of a Building Preservation Notice (BPN), were demolished.
But she added the notice which temporarily protected the buildings for six months expired on 16 January and the owner required no consent to carry out the works.
A spokeswoman added: “For a period of up to six months the buildings can be protected as listed buildings, giving the agency time to carry out research and consultation. At the end of the period NIEA must decide if the structures should be permanently listed.
“This process was carried out in regard to these buildings and following detailed research it was decided that they did not meet the test of the legislation which requires a listed building to be of ‘special architectural or historic interest’.”