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Outrage over demolition of old buildings in city centre

By Staff Reporter

A heritage group has voiced its outrage at the demolition of three historic buildings in Belfast.

The buildings at 95-107 North Street, which date back more than 100 years, were demolished last weekend.

The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society expected a request for the buildings to be listed - which it sent on March 11, 2016 - to be approved by Belfast City Council at its December meeting. The heritage group said it was "alarming" that demolition took place "coincidentally, just before listing for the protection of these buildings was likely to be confirmed".

It said: "This follows on the destruction of heritage through the demolition of the Metropole and Orpheus buildings on York Street in 2015, and comes at a time when a substantial section of historic Belfast at the other end of North Street is re-proposed for demolition as part of plans for the Royal Exchange commercial complex. The destruction of our finite and irreplaceable historic building stock is now at shocking levels.

"We are unnecessarily losing historic buildings in Belfast which any other city or jurisdiction would give priority to preserve, in a city that has ample vacant development land. Every heritage asset lost represents another blow to Belfast's potential to promote tourism, economic investment, social regeneration and cohesion through restoration of its historic buildings."

The group is now seeking an urgent meeting with Communities Minister Paul Givan.

"Following the weekend demolition, yet another significant portion of our attractive architectural past has been destroyed," it said.

Meanwhile, two student developments in Belfast have been 'forward sold'. A US investment fund is to acquire one development at the former Athletic Stores in Belfast for £26m when work is completed. The 340-bed project on Queen Street has been subjected to a 'forward-fund investment' by UK developer Watkin Jones and Co Down firm Lacuna Developments. That means the development will change hands and be acquired by the US fund once it's finished. A Dublin Road development, also by a venture by Lacuna and Watkin Jones, has been subjected to a 'forward sale' but to a different investor.

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