Since 2011 the UAHS has called for an alternative plan for the Ulster University development, one that integrated irreplaceable historic buildings into its plans. It appears that the University is going ahead with the complete demolition of this group of buildings, signalling further erosion to Belfast’s already compromised historic environment.
The Orpheus and the Metropole were not listed. They are adjacent to, but not located inside the Belfast City Centre and Cathedral Quarter conservation areas. The lack of protection afforded to them left them vulnerable to inappropriate alteration or demolition. In an attempt to protect the buildings, UAHS twice put the Orpheus forward to the Department of the Environment for listing. We highlighted the positive contribution it affords to the two adjacent conservation areas. Unfortunately these considerations were not successful in changing the progression of the plans, and demolition was approved by the Department of the Environment in 2013. A decision made prior to local government reform and the transfer of planning to Belfast City Council in 2015.
Both the Orpheus and Metropole buildings are among the limited and increasingly diminishing stock of Belfast buildings in the Art Deco style. Belfast’s historic environment has already been significantly compromised by the loss of built heritage to the Blitz and the Troubles. This has been compounded by a limited appreciation on the part of main government and corporate bodies of the advantages of heritage led regeneration. It is regrettable to see the Orpheus and Metropole join the old Great Victoria Street Station, the Grand Central Hotel and Great Victoria Street Baptist Church, (incorporating ‘Belfast’s smallest house’), in a long list of buildings which we now mourn.
We note significant public concern about these demolitions both on social media, and in direct correspondence to UAHS. We now turn to Belfast City Council, in their new responsibility for planning and regeneration, to ask for better measures for the retention and reuse of our historic buildings, as valuable assets for the economic, social and cultural well-being of the city.
Click here to read the Belfast Telegraph article in full.
We encourage the wider public to contact Belfast City Council to outline concerns arising from these demolitions, joining with the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society in our request for better protection for Belfast’s historic environment in the city’s forthcoming local development plan: democraticservices[email protected]
Belfast City Hall
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