Decision on Belfast building de-listings expected soon

Posted on 28 February, 2015 by Cliff Goodwin

Seventeen Belfast properties are about to have their listed status revoked under a Department of Environment (DoE) review — including one of the city’s oldest pubs.


Kelly’s Cellars in Bank Square is being considered for delisting along with a handful of other buildings for what the Government department claims is a “lack of historic fabric”. The list of mainly commercial properties is being considered by the Historic Buildings Council and Belfast City Council, with a decision expected early next month.

The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS), which is fighting all the delisting proposals, claims that despite their present condition, “all the buildings currently proposed for delisting contribute to the value of Belfast’s fragile built heritage and are important resources to promote tourism, economic investment and social regeneration”.

The most famous of the properties is Kelly’s Cellars. Built in 1720 and was originally a bonded warehouse selling rum, gin and whiskey. In the final years of the 18th century it became a meeting place for Henry Joy McCracken and the United Irishmen and was where they planned the 1798 Rising. During one raid by British soldiers McCracken reportedly hid behind the bar.

“Whilst it has been altered, the building retains historic character and has significant architectural value and is recognised by the Ulster History Circle,” continued the UAHS spokesman.

“The building has seen renewal and repair, typical of a building of its age. Unlike scheduling, listing does not imply that a building cannot evolve and change, only that alteration must be done appropriately.”

Other commercial or industrial buildings that could lose protection are:

  • 276-294 Tennent Street, Edenderry Gardens
  • 11 and 13 College Place North
  • 4 to 8 and 10 Church Lane
  • Arthur Chambers, 4 to 14 Arthur Street
  • Ulster Bank (former Methodist Church), 11 to 16 Donegall Square East.

All the Church Lane properties were restored after Second World War bomb damage with traditional-style shop fronts. “It is due to their listed status that these buildings were restored in an appropriate and sympathetic way after bomb damage,” added the society spokesman. “If delisted, these buildings will no longer avail of the protection that once saved them and be in danger of demolition or redevelopment.”

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency currently has more than 800 historic buildings under survey. “The vast majority will remain and be protected,” reassured a DoE spokesperson.

“Most of the buildings proposed for delisting have a significant loss of historic fabric. A final view will, however, only be taken once consultation responses have been received and for the first time, interiors are being recorded and detailed historical research carried out,” he added.

“The aim is to provide a clear explanation of why buildings should be considered important enough to have this protection and to ensure that the department has good evidence to protect such structures from unauthorised change in the future.”

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