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Wrecking ball to raze historic Orpheus building in Belfast as campaigners call for law change to save city's heritage

By Chris McCullough

Published 21/12/2015

The Orpheus building in York Street, Belfast, in 1971
The Orpheus building in York Street, Belfast, in 1971

Heritage campaigners have called for changes to the law to protect historic buildings in Belfast following the demolition of the Orpheus building.

A number of landmark buildings in the city are being razed to make way for a University of Ulster development.

But the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS) says more should be done to protect such vulnerable buildings.

The society said that although the Orpheus building was not listed, its demolition signifies an ongoing "erosion of Belfast's unique identity."

"The Orpheus was not listed. It is adjacent to, but not located inside the Belfast city centre and Cathedral Quarter conservation areas. The lack of protection afforded to it left it vulnerable to inappropriate alteration or demolition," the UAHS said.

"Since 2011 the UAHS has called for an alternative plan for the Ulster University development, one that integrated this historic building into its plans.

"It is unfortunate that despite encouragement, the Ulster University did not see the architectural, cultural and social potential that lies in integration and reuse. This represents another blow to Belfast's fragile historic environment."

The society warned that other unlisted historic buildings in the area are now under threat as part of the Department of Social Development's Northside Regeneration plan, including the popular Sunflower Bar, Victorian warehouses, and former commercial premises close to the listed Art Deco former Bank of Ireland in North Street.

"Like the Orpheus, none of these buildings are protected by conservation area or listed status.

"Despite this, and the relative disrepair of some of these buildings, we recommend that they should be integrated, harnessing continuity of their historic place in the context of new development.

"We ask those disappointed in the demolition of the Orpheus, and proposals for future demolition of Northside to respond by public objection to Belfast City Council through the planning process at planning@belfastcity.gov.uk, quoting reference number LA04/2015/0577/O, requesting that historic buildings are appropriately integrated into these plans."

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