Give Automatic Interim Protection to buildings in NI proposed for listing.
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Listed buildings are given special protection by law, and it is a criminal offence to damage them, but current NI legislation offers no automatic interim protection to buildings which are under consideration for listing. When the Historic Environment Division, Department for Communities intend to list a building, a notification letter is issued to the local authority and the owner. However, the building is NOT yet protected by law. Shockingly, some owners who do not appreciate the value of their irreplaceable historic asset or who have a commercial vested interest, can, and do demolish before the final formal designation is issued.
Between Friday 5th and Saturday 6th January 2018, the interior of Straid Congregational Church, was substantially demolished: https://www.uahs.org.uk/news/258/
Between 26th and 27th November 2016 three prominent buildings at 95-107 North Street, Belfast were demolished in their entireity: https://www.uahs.org.uk/news/228/heritage+of+north+belfast+nearly+listed+now+lost%2E/
These are the latest in a catalogue of buildings that have been destroyed just before achieving the protection of listed building status. Such an attitude of disregard for the value of Heritage is shocking, but what shocks more is the fact that notification of intent to list is issued without any interim protection in place. Owners who demolish in this instance in fact are not breaking the law. This must change.
If a local authority considers a building to be at special risk, they can choose to serve a Building Preservation Notice. But local authorities are reluctant to issue Building Preservation Notices. There is often no prior reason to suspect that the owner will damage the building as in the case of Straid. Most such demolitions happen overnight, on bank holidays or at weekends when local authorities may be closed. Only a handful of BPN's are issued each year. At present BPNs are not seen to be a foolproof interim protection for buildings under consideration for listing and, as a consequence, important buildings continue to be lost.
Buildings are listed in line with long established legislation, both in the public interest and at public expense. Until automatic interim protection is introduced, the time, expertise, and resource spent on the public’s behalf, and most importantly the buildings lost in its absence, are needlessly wasted.
UAH calls on the Historic Environment Division, Department for Communities, local authorities and the NI Executive for the introduction of automatic interim protection for buildings under consideration for listing in Northern Ireland. Please #helpheritage by adding your name to this petition.
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