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Belfast dry docks may lose listed building status

By Linda Stewart

Two dry docks which are the oldest part of Belfast's port may lose listed status as a result of a review by Northern Ireland's heritage authorities.

The Department for Communities has asked Belfast City Council for its views on delisting the two Clarendon graving docks, close to the Belfast Harbour Commissioners Office.

A report to the council's planning committee said: "The department is currently considering the delisting of the following and would welcome the views of the council on this matter.

"They have been recommended for delisting because they do not meet the criteria to be a listed building.

"Both graving docks are scheduled, rather than listed, as a more appropriate form of protection."

Both docks would not be under formal protection, but would be subject to planning law.

No 1 Graving Dock is the earliest surviving part of Belfast's port infrastructure.

It sits beside the Harbour Office, and was constructed between 1796 and 1800 on behalf of the Belfast Board by William Ritchie, an Ayrshire-born shipbuilder who moved to Belfast in 1791. It was completed at a cost of £7, 684.

The low building in the middle was a workshop, whose upstairs section was designed for working on the rigging of sailing ships. The No 2 Graving Dock and the dock buildings were completed in 1826 to designs by David Logan from Angus.

These two docks were used to work on the ships' hulls once the gates had closed, allowing water to be pumped out.

The open dock between this area and the main river was opened in 1851. The area has now been transformed into a business hub and is home to, among others, the Belfast Telegraph and the NI Policing Board.

Nikki McVeigh, chief executive of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, said the group normally did not support delisting per se.

"In this very unique instance, it probably is fine, because the docks have scheduling protection," she said.

"They are not taking away protection - they are moving to a more appropriate form of protection."

The department also asked for views on listing several buildings, including the Chapel of Unity at Methodist College and All Souls Church Hall in nearby Elmwood Avenue, both of which are in south Belfast.

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