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Save Havelock House group wants it listed for 150th anniversary

Historian calls former home of UTV 'a key part of our shared history'

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Historic: Havelock House in 1959, when it was taken over by Ulster Television from J.M. Ritchie & Co to become the headquarters of the fledgling TV station

Historic: Havelock House in 1959, when it was taken over by Ulster Television from J.M. Ritchie & Co to become the headquarters of the fledgling TV station

Historic: Havelock House in 1959, when it was taken over by Ulster Television from J.M. Ritchie & Co to become the headquarters of the fledgling TV station

A TV historian who objected to the demolition of Havelock House in Belfast has said he will now campaign for it to be listed.

Havelock House was the home of broadcaster UTV from 1959 to 2018, and was bought by a developer which planned to knock it down and built apartments on the Ormeau Road site.

According to records held by the Department for Communities, it was built as a linen warehouse in 1871 for James Thompson & Sons. Before UTV took it over, it had been occupied by JM Ritchie & Co, which made ladies' clothing.

Belfast City Council's planning committee has now voted to reject the application by London firm Olympian Homes.

Reasons included concerns about the impact on residents in Donegall Pass, and the risk the eight-storey block could dominate nearby listed buildings.

TV historian Ken Griffin, who organised the Save Havelock House campaign group, said he was delighted the development was knocked back.

He said: "It was a development which would have a detrimental impact on our built heritage and the lives of local residents. Havelock House is a key part of our shared history and Save Havelock House looks forward to working with stakeholders to ensure that it is redeveloped in a manner which supports the local community.

"Our short-term plan will be to launch a campaign pushing for the building to be given listed status during its 150th anniversary year in 2021."

Historic Environment Division, a section within the Department for Communities, had declined to carrying out a survey to see if the building should be listed. But HED had still objected to the application on the basis of its impact on listed buildings nearby.

Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown, who spoke against the application at Tuesday's meeting, said he believed the site would make "a great museum or community hub".

Mr Griffin has said the building and studios should be preserved as the last surviving example in Ireland of a studio from the early days of TV broadcasts.

Gerry Kelly, who presented chat show Kelly from Havelock House between 1989 and 2005, said the interior of Havelock House was "like a warren".

"Regardless of all the work they did down the years, it was still a very awkward-shaped building. The location was always good but the building itself never really suited a TV station, no matter how many changes they did to it," he recalled.

"There was a small studio, and a smaller one where the news was broadcast in the early days. Kelly started in the small studio, then a new one, where Kelly was for 15 or 16 years.

"Every corner of that studio has a memory of me as our guests were a who's who of the 1990s and early 2000s.

"Celine Dion was on the show. My daughter is a massive Celine Dion fan and I told her we had her on, and she nearly died. But Celine Dion was practically an unknown at that time. She had represented Switzerland in the Eurovision Song Contest and that's why we had her on."

He contrasted UTV's present home at City Quays, adding: "UTV's premises now is really an office block and there are no studios as such."

Belfast Telegraph


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