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Row over heritage as Banbridge church dating to 1904 demolished

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Demolition taking place at Ballydown Presbyterian Church in Banbridge

Demolition taking place at Ballydown Presbyterian Church in Banbridge

Demolition taking place at Ballydown Presbyterian Church in Banbridge

An historic church is being demolished to make way for a new place of worship on the site, amid claims that heritage is a low priority in Northern Ireland.

Ballydown Presbyterian Church in Banbridge is being razed to the ground, with some people expressing their sadness at seeing "this lovely building pulled down".

But church officials have said their decision to demolish old Ballydown and build a new church was in keeping with the needs of their growing congregation "who needed a larger building with extra space and modern facilities to meet and worship in".

Ulster Architectural Heritage (UAH), which is the lead independent voice for the promotion of built heritage, said Ballydown "is a loss of identity of community roots which photographs and documents can not replace".

The Department for Communities said: "Ballydown church was being reviewed to determine whether it met the test for listing.

"This process was not complete at the time of demolition."

As demolition work got under way, one local said: "It is sad to see such a lovely building pulled down. Heritage in this area seems to be quite a low priority".

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But the Presbyterian Church in Ireland said it was necessary to take action.

"For many different reasons, and after prayerful consideration, our congregations sometimes find it desirable to renovate, rebuild or even move to a new location, so that they can continue to serve and be a blessing to the local community in the name of Jesus Christ," it said.

"Ballydown Presbyterian is a vibrant and growing church of some 500-plus people who needed a larger building with extra space and modern facilities to meet and worship in - a place that could also be enjoyed by the local community.

"While some will lament the passing of the old church, the site will still be used to increase the capacity of the graveyard, which will remain in use."

UAH said the church "was a finite and irreplaceable asset".

"Small historic churches like Ballydown are a finite memorial to the rural congregations of Ulster who, in often very hard times, were able to establish their faith and tradition through these typically modest, plain, very soundly built and, in their way, very attractive churches, set so comfortably in the Ulster countryside," it said.

"Regrettably, Ballydown Presbyterian Church, like too many of its kind, was not listed, and therefore not protected by any statutory designation.

"Built in 1904, the church was a finite and irreplaceable local architectural and historic asset.

"It is unfortunate it was not retained in the new church plans.

"Since 2015, local authorities actually have had the devolved authority to 'locally list' historic buildings.

"Whilst UAH encourage local authorities to take the opportunity through local development plans to do local listing, incredibly, the power, when applied, does not add any protection to the building and, as such is effectively 'waste of time' legislation."


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