Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Small buildings integral to Northern Irish history

  • Comment

The short piece concerning the demolition of vernacular and listed buildings in Northern Ireland (AJ 8.11.01) skirts around what is a very serious, and very depressing, situation.

Among the many issues faced on a daily basis by the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and recently highlighted in the SAVE report 'Blink and You'll Miss It - Northern Ireland's Heritage in Danger', Austin Williams only chooses to dwell on two - the destruction of vernacular buildings and the delisting of buildings in general in the Province.

Listing criteria are largely based on those used in England so, in many cases, are not appropriate to Northern Ireland's built heritage, where small vernacular buildings are an essential part of the historic landscape. The government-sponsored vandalism that is wiping out an entire layer of history gives, through the inequity of the VAT system, more money to those who knock down their vernacular buildings (to replace them with similar sized bungalows) than to those who want to repair traditional buildings.

The standards by which traditional buildings are judged unfit include staircases that are too steep by modern standards and uneven floor surfaces. The playing field is far from level - it is entirely incorrect to say that these buildings have been 'reasonably destroyed'.

The issue of the delisting of historic buildings in the Province is nothing short of scandalous. Buildings have been delisted not because their core historic value has been permanently diminished, but for minor reasons, such as changes in fenestration which could, and should, be reversed. Instead of the owners being punished, it is the buildings that suffer - delisting is usually the signal for demolition and redevelopment.

On top of all this, the resurvey of buildings of historic and architectural significance in Northern Ireland has all but ground to a halt, and while the resurveys in England and Wales have resulted in an overall increase in the number of buildings being granted statutory protection, in Ulster the resurvey has so far led to a decrease.

At the root of this situation is a complete lack of political will to solve the situation. The statutory instruments available for the protection of historic buildings are very rarely used, and the Environment and Heritage Service (the body responsible for the historic environment) is hideously under-funded.

Action is required now but, true to form, the Department of the Environment's response to our report is somewhat overdue.

Adam Wilkinson, secretary, SAVE Britain's Heritage

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.