A North Down landowner is up in arms over a Stormont department’s plans to list a World War Two artillery gun house in his garden.
The proprietor at Coastguard Lane, Orlock, outside Bangor, has one of only three largely intact coastal gun houses in Northern Ireland in his garden, but describes it as a safety hazard and wants it removed.
The owner had previously made a planning application to Ards and North Down Council to demolish the historic building for a new dwelling. It was withdrawn in September.
But as a result, the Historic Environment Division (HED) in the Department for Communities came to consider the building for listing. The department requested that the council serve a Building Preservation Notice on the site. It will be the first served by Ards and North Down Council. However, several councillors say their sympathies lie with the proprietor, and a vexed letter has been sent by council chief executive Stephen Reid to the Department.
UUP councillor David Chambers said at a recent council meeting: “I am disappointed with the manner in which DfC and HED has acted so far.
“There does seem to appear to be a dogged determination to see this through and see it listed, no matter what. From speaking to the owner, I know that he did carry out quite extensive research.
"He has not been able to find any real firm evidence to suggest that a gun ever existed or was placed in this building, and certainly HED have failed to bring anything to light of significance.
“As for the building itself, I took the opportunity to visit it, and it’s actually in quite a poor state. I would deem it unsafe, and it is going to take a significant investment on the owner’s part, not only to keep it safe, but to keep it preserved in the long term.”
The letter from the Mr Reid to the department says the council “considers that it been placed in a difficult position by HED, whereby it was not the council that had considered the building to be at risk, nor did the council request the department to consider including it on a list compiled under section 80 of the Planning Act.”
It adds: “Whilst the council served the notice upon the recommendation of HED, it considers that HED should more appropriately have been in direct liaison with the owner to explain the process and the council’s role in that process.”
There is no right of appeal against the listing of a building, but the department states it will reassess a building’s merit in the light of any new information.