Belfast Telegraph

Belfast City Council halts demolition of historic properties

Listed mansion on Sans Souci Park and Edwardian townhouses on Malone Avenue hit by wreckers.

By Christopher Woodhouse

Council officials have halted demolition of two historic properties in a Belfast conservation zone.

Workers began tearing down the houses in the south of the city - a listed Edwardian mansion on Sans Souci Park, near Queen’s University, and a townhouse on Malone Avenue.

After appeals from local residents, planning officers stepped in to issue temporary stop notices.

Beechview Developments was ordered to cease all work on the 106-year-old property, which is the only listed building on Sans Souci Park.

A substantial two-storey outbuilding had already been torn down with demolition work on the back of the house under way before the council stepped in.

Beechview had permission for external alterations to the main building and to adapt the outbuildings to create a total of 10 apartments.

Meanwhile, residents claim workmen moved in over the Twelfth bank holiday to almost completely demolish a Victorian town house on nearby Malone Avenue.

With council staff on leave, the stop notice was issued too late to save the façade of the building.

Lower Malone Residents’ Association secretary Conor Doyle said: “It is dreadfully sad that builders have demolished this important 120-year-old street corner site building.

“We’ve received a lot of support from councillors and MLAs who, like us, can see the value in retaining these old buildings.

“Belfast City Council and the courts need to be robust in dealing with these kinds of developers so that we don’t lose more buildings like these in future.”

The Planning Service describes the area as attractive and “historically rich” and issues design guidelines for construction work in the area.

Sans Souci residents successfully campaigned to stop Queen’s building 102 new student rooms at neighbouring Lennoxvale last year.

Planners rejected the application saying the development would harm the character of the unique area.

Sans Souci resident Eileen Sung, who has been vocal during previous campaigns to halt development in the area, hit out at the planners.

She said: “It’s very disappointing.

“People are battle weary. I don’t think there is real conservation in Belfast, so much has been approved already, residents have begun to think that the planners just don’t listen.”

A spokesperson for the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society said: “‘The UAHS is disappointed to hear of the unauthorised demolition of buildings in the Malone Conservation Area, including one listed structure. 

“Designations are placed on historic buildings and areas to protect their architectural and historical significance, and their positive contribution to our historic environment for us all.  

“It is an offence to demolish any listed building or building in a conservation area without the necessary authorisation.

“This offence should not be let go without sufficient lessons being learned through sufficient levels of prosecution.

“We are pleased to see Belfast City Council taking action by issuing stop notices and we encourage them to proceed with enforcement, including high level fines and like for like reinstatement of the buildings at Malone Avenue and Sans Souci.”

Referring to the Malone Avenue property, Green Party MLA for south Belfast Clare Bailey told us: “I am very concerned at what appears to be a serious breach of planning regulations. 

“It is unacceptable that the builders have demolished most of the front facade when the planning permission required it to be left intact.

“I have been in touch with the planning department and have been advised that the builder’s action has been recorded as a priority one breach, as it is unauthorised demolition in a conservation area.

“It is disgraceful that planning regulations have been flouted and I will be seeking to ensure that the planning department applies whatever sanctions it can against the builders.”

A spokesperson for Belfast City Council said that the council does not comment on live enforcement cases.

Sunday Life contacted Beechview Developments on several occasions but received no reply to our request for comment.

We were unable to contact the developers behind the work on Malone Avenue.

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