Documents used to decide on fate of old linen warehouse requested under FOI rules

Last ditch effort to save building

By Francesca Ryan

A LOCAL man has launched a petition in a last-ditch effort to save a historic old building that has played a part in the lives of countless Belfast people.

Ciarán Logue also plans to submit a Freedom of Information request to Alex Attwood’s office in a bid to see the documents the Planning Minister consulted when making the decision to raze the former Athletics Store building in Queen Street.

“I started the petition because I am passionate about Belfast and I believe that the city deserves better than the decision Mr Attwood made on this matter,” Ciarán told the Belfast Media Group.

“I have been studying the ideas of place, space and the built environment for four years at Goldsmiths University of London and their Centre for Urban and Community Research and I have learned enough to know that this is a bad decision. The decision sets a bad precedent and cheapens the input of so many people who have sought to save the building and people who admire it. I am astounded that the Minister feels that it cannot be saved. Façades are retained all the time and the North has lots of companies that can do this. Pretty much every grand building in Belfast has had this done – from BBC Broadcasting House to the Bank Buildings, from the Anderson & McAuley building to Robinson & Cleaver and the Ulster Bank.”

Ciarán says the old linen warehouse tells a vital story of a bygone age in Belfast.

“This building forms part of the story of buildings in Belfast,” he said. “We went from grand but modest redbrick corner buildings to Portland stone and granite palatial buildings. It shows the story of Belfast’s rise to prosperity and it is as worth saving as any of the others mentioned.

“It will be a long time before we will be able to build something as daring and grand as the Athletic Stores/Swanston’s linen warehouse building would have seemed at the time it was built. This is why we should keep what we have.”

Ciarán says that in recent times he had tried in vain to make contact with the Minster to convey his concerns.

“I tried to contact the Minister several times leading up to the decision and I was ignored,” he said. “I accept that the building is in a really bad state of repair but it undermines the citizens of Belfast to say it is too expensive to keep this building standing for future generations to enjoy.

“I think Belfast has put up with quite enough monstrous buildings and deserves much better and we will not improve by repeating mistakes.

“I will be asking to see the papers the Minister consulted when making this decision. If I am ignored or refused, I will submit a Freedom of Information request in order to see them. I also intend to approach civil engineering companies to get their opinions on whether the building facade is truly beyond saving, which I seriously question.”

 

n To sign the petition, log on to www.ipetitions.com/petition/saveswanstonsathletic/

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