Historic Belfast church faces demolition for flats
One of Belfast's oldest churches may be flattened and the site turned into an apartment block, it can be revealed.
Macrory Memorial Presbyterian Church in Duncairn Gardens - straddling a peace line - has been standing since 1896.
It just about survived - with a touch of rebuilding - the Belfast Blitz and the Troubles, but now a developer wants to demolish the empty north Belfast place of worship and build a modern block of 12 two-bedroom apartments.
The former congregation was amalgamated with a nearby church in 2005 to form Fortwilliam and Macrory Presbyterian Church, and the building later fell into disuse.
Belfast City Council's planning committee is to consider the application for demolition next Tuesday.
There is a recommendation to approve the proposal, but councillors can choose to vote according to the evidence they see during the meeting.
A heritage group said the demolition of the church would be a loss to the area.
Chief executive of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, Nikki McVeigh, said she would recommend that the building is left intact.
"The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society often regret proposals for demolition of unlisted, but nevertheless important historic buildings," she said.
"The former Macrory Memorial Presbyterian Church, Duncairn Gardens, Belfast, is of significance to the local landscape and its demolition would be a loss to local people and place, as a building that links them to their past."
A number of planning applications have been allowed for the building in the past, including for apartments in 2009, a community cafe in 2011, hot food takeaways in 2013 and a gym/boxing club in 2013.
Ms McVeigh said the building had less protection now because the previous applications had been allowed.
"It is unfortunate that previous application for demolition has been passed," she said.
"The building is not listed and is not in a conservation area.
"As a result, it benefits from no statutory protection against demolition. While the building was considered for listing, it fell short of criteria used by the Department of the Environment to decide designations."
The conservationist added: "It is disappointing that very good historic buildings like this may be lost due to lack of designation to protect them.
"Macrory Memorial appears to be in relatively good condition, and we would recommend that there is scope for its retention and conversion for re-use."