Heritage campaigners in Northern Ireland have attacked the province's government for sitting by while one of Londonderry's most-treasured landmarks is demolished illegally. The owner of the B+ listed (equivalent to Grade II*) Victorian Tillie & Henderson Fabric factory is knocking it down in stages without having secured planning permission.
Furious heritage campaigners argue the local Heritage Conservation Agency is uninterested in saving most of the province's historic buildings and is often unwilling to prosecute. The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society's secretary Rita Harkin said the government could have saved the building, designed by J G Ferguson, by using powers such as a Compulsory Purchase Order. But instead it 'sat on its hands', she said, 'because the government is far keener on going for economic growth than saving the area's history'.
Harkin called on ministers to become involved in rescuing what remains of the building. She said that the province's government should consider taking the private owner to the High Court in an effort to halt the progress.And SAVE Britain's Heritage secretary Adam Wilkinson has also joined the fray. He said he was 'furious that the government is prepared to sit by and watch while this fantastic building is mindlessly destroyed'. Wilkinson said that the province's ministers - based in Westminster, following the reintroduction of direct rule - should increase the maximum fine available to magistrates for this kind of crime.
Currently the upper limit for breaking the listing laws in Northern Ireland is a 'paltry £5,000', representing no disincentive to developers, he said.
In the UK the maximum is £250,000.
The Northern Ireland Office was unavailable for comment.