A LONDONDERRY conservation area exhibiting the best Georgian architecture in UK City of Culture 2013 is in a ‘very poor state of repair,’ according to Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland.
The Minister also revealed that the controversial removal of old granite kerbing stones as part of a public realm scheme designed to improve the Clarendon Street and Queen Street area will be at least partly reversed. The stones will now be re-used in Clarendon Street.
Mr McCausland also suggested popular old street lights - recently removed from the area - would have been likely to have fallen over if they had been hit by a car.
The Minister said the ongoing public realm scheme in Clarendon Street would enhance the historic area.
Mr McCausland explained: “The aim of the current public realm scheme in Clarendon Street and Queen Street in Londonderry is to enhance the streetscape, which is in a very poor state of repair.
“Since these streets are in a designated Conservation Area, a number of measures have been taken to protect the historic character of this part of the city.”
The selection of materials for the refurbishment was only made following extensive discussions involving the Department of Social Development (DSD), Department of Regional Development (DRD) Roads Service, the Department of Environment (DoE) Planning Service and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).
“A number of options for the size and style of paving slabs were considered before the final selection was made on optimum balance of appearance, cost, time required to deliver the scheme and health and safety factors,” stated the Minister.
“NIEA inspected a sample of the paving material and agreed that it was acceptable for the location.” he added.
Although it was originally believed the old paving would be useless, this has since changed.
“The NIEA also asked that the remaining granite kerbs be re-used if at all possible. Although it was originally believed that these would not be a suitable size for re-use, they have been examined following their removal from the street and it has been agreed that they can be re-used in a section of Clarendon Street,” he stated.
The removal of old street lights in the Georgian avenues of Clarendon Street and Queen Street had also provoked the ire of Londonderry conservationists.
But Mr McCausland said the old lampposts would have been vulnerable to collapse if they had been hit by wayward vehicles.
“The old cast iron street lighting columns were removed due to concerns about their ability to withstand impact from vehicles. The replacement lighting columns are similar to those already used in the Historic City Conservation Area.
“I am satisfied that, taken together, these measures will not only ensure that the character of the area is respected, but that the completed scheme will positively enhance the built heritage of the Clarendon Street Conservation Area,” he stated.