Belfast Telegraph

Concerns over plan to bulldoze historic Hillsborough town hall to make way for new apartments

By Linda Stewart

The former town hall building in historic Hillsborough is to be demolished and nine apartments built in its place.

The plan has sparked concerns that the redevelopment of the site could detract from the appearance of the Georgian village.

But the architect behind the project has promised that it will be sympathetic to its surroundings.

The town hall and former council offices in the square are built in a Georgian style but actually only date back to the 1960s and are not listed.

Last October the Belfast Telegraph reported that the building had gone on the market for £500,000.

The offices were formerly used by Lisburn City Council, but it merged with Castlereagh as part of the reform of Northern Ireland's local government structures.

A planning application to demolish the town hall and construct a new four-storey building with nine apartments and lower ground car parking has been lodged by Mervyn Kennedy of MG Kennedy Developments.

Last night the Ulster Architectural Heritage Association warned redevelopment proposals needed to be appropriate to the Conservation Area of the Co Down village.

Chief executive Nikki McVeigh said: "Hillsborough is one of our best preserved towns and the historic town centre is protected as a whole through its Conservation Area status.  

"The former town hall is located within the Conservation Area, in proximity to a number of important buildings which benefit from the additional protection of listing. 

"While not listed, the existing former town hall, dating back to the 1960s, may be seen to make an acceptable contribution to Hillsborough.  

"Any proposals for its redevelopment should be appropriate and sympathetic to the Conservation Area and the setting of the listed buildings nearby. 

"In particular, the scale, form and detailing of any new development must be sympathetic to its historic surroundings and not be detrimental to the overall character of the conservation area."

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Local business owner Derek Patterson said stringent conditions had been put in place for a previous application to redevelop the site.

"Provided that the same applies to the new owner of the development, then it should be in keeping with the village," he said.

"We don't want some modern monstrosity - it needs to be sympathetic and in character with the village."

He said the town hall building was built on the site of the original Grand Hotel, which burned down during the Second World War in a blaze started by a smouldering cigarette belonging to one of the American soldiers who was sleeping there.

Mr Patterson said an important aspect is that there needs to be at least 18 car parking spaces to serve a building with nine apartments. "I don't think the building was worth keeping, to be honest," he added.

The Saintfield-based architect of the planned development, William Shannon, said the new design will be based on what has already been approved in the previous application.

He said the existing town hall was a 1960s pastiche.

"Quite a bit of work had been done previously on the scheme. The client felt the best way forward was to go with what had already been approved for the site," he said.

Mr Shannon said the style will be traditional, with brick construction and pitched roofs, based on the previous application which was in sympathy with the three-storey terraced buildings on the other side of the square.

"What was clear from the file in the previous approval was that they wanted it to be sympathetic with that block," he said.

"There will be sufficient car parking to satisfy the needs for Transport NI."

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