Planning Portal

Dermot Nesbitt Angry At Demolition Of Seamus Heaney's Former Home

Published on Thu, 23 May 2002
Shame on the developer. That was the message from Environment Minister, Mr Dermot Nesbitt, to the developer who commenced demolition work at Seamus Heaney’s former house in Ashley Avenue.
Mr Nesbitt said: "I deeply regret that the owner of the property has taken this action. Only yesterday my officials contacted the developer to create the space whereby we could carry out a survey of that property. The basis of this survey would then have determined whether it had the architectural and historical qualities needed to list.
"I am both angry and disappointed that the developer didn’t give us that space, though I fully accept he is acting within the law as it stands. The property is not a listed building; it is not in a conservation area; and my Department does not yet have spot-listing powers.
"Rest assured that I am already taking active steps by way of the Assembly to change the law, seeking powers to spot-list properties and to enable heavier fines to be imposed on any developers who flout the law.
"My vision though is not simply based in tougher enforcement laws. We need to establish an effective partnership between developers, the public and the DOE so that our built heritage is secured for generations to come."
Commenting on reaction to the demolition, Minister Nesbitt said:
"I can easily understand the feelings of those who consider the Seamus Heaney house to be an important part of Northern Ireland’s artistic and cultural heritage. In particular, I have noted, and can empathise with my colleague Michael McGimpsey’s concern about the loss to our cultural heritage and his wish for the developer to be punished. However, I cannot punish anyone who keeps the law. My aim is to change the law."
Concluding, Minister Nesbitt said: "As ever, planning involves the weighing of the rights of the property owner and others in the wider public interest. I believe that my policy proposals for amending the planning law, currently before the Assembly, will significantly strengthen the listing and enforcement provisions of the planning law. I look forward to introducing the Bill in June and hope that it will proceed rapidly through its legislative stages."

Notes to Editors

For further information please contact Philip Maguire DOE Press Office Tel 028 9054 0013, mobile 07713 652815.
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