Historic Athletic Stores building spared from demolition

The Athletic Stores building in Belfast.
The Athletic Stores building in Belfast.

A High Court judge yesterday spared a Victorian warehouse in Belfast city centre from demolition, for a second time.

Mr Justice Treacy quashed a renewed planning decision to have the Athletic Stores building torn down and replaced with residential and retail premises.

He ruled that the Department of the Environment (DoE) failed to properly consider a policy presumption in favour of retaining buildings in conservation areas.

Although the 19th century linen warehouse on Queen Street is not listed, it does stand in a conservation area.

In May 2012, the DoE gave fresh planning permission for it to be demolished and redeveloped.

Serious structural flaws in the building were identified, and the bill for its retention had been estimated at around £4m.

That decision prompted a further judicial review challenge by the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS), which had succeeded in getting a previous authorisation for demolition quashed by the High Court in 2010.

Planning chiefs were ordered to reconsider the application by developer Carlisle Property Developments Ltd to build apartments, ground floor shops and an underground car park.

Lawyers for the UAHS argued that the latest decision was both irrational and in breach of planning policy.

Delivering judgment yesterday, Mr Justice Treacy granted the application to have the decision quashed.

A further hearing was listed to decide remedies and costs.