ONE of Lisburn's oldest buildings was saved from demolition this week after it was listed by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).
The historic Rathvarna House, at 22 Pond Park Road, was 'listed' as a building of special architectural and historic interest. This means that consent is now required from the Department to carry out any changes which might affect its special character.
Local people had campaigned to save the building, which was the subject of a planning application by the Education Board to have it demolished and replaced.
Environment Minister Edwin Poots said: "I am pleased to see that my Department reacted promptly when demolition was proposed for this important building. Protection by listing will ensure that the history and strong architectural character of this building can be appreciated by
present and future generations." The building, ,which dates from 1903, is a two-storey villa designed in the Italianate Palazzo style of late Victorian era set within a complementary garden.
The Minister added: "The property is of special interest because it is an eye-catching early 20th century 'suburban' villa with an abundance of fine Italianate detailing. Both externally and internally it is largely original, moreover its outbuildings to the north have been retained as well a large chunk of its grounds, complete with some mature trees. "Development pressures have meant that many buildings such has this have either disappeared in recent decades, or been compromised by a loss of context."
The listing was carried out in response to requests from local residents and Lisburn City Council and work on the listing was brought forward with the submission of a Planning Application in May 2009 which involved demolition.
Over the last few months the building has been surveyed in detail and evaluated by NIEA. A detailed report and view that the building was worthy of listing was sent to statutory consultees.
Lisburn Councillor Paul Givan and Alderman Jeffrey Donaldson, who campaigned for the building to be listed welcomed the news.
In a joint statement they said: "The preservation of the building is important to keep the character of the area and we know this news will be welcomed by everyone in the locality. This has clear implications for the decision for the current planning application to have the building demolished and replaced. That can not now proceed and the Education Board will have to consider their options again.
"We urge the Board to come forward with a planning concept to local people and ensure the green space and listed building is now developed in a sustainable way, which preserves the building for future generations."
Local resident, Nicola Waddington, an architect who campaigned for Rathvarna House to be saved, said she was "absolutely delighted" with the news.
Nicola said: "I am absolutely delighted that the Northern Ireland Environment Agency has decided to grant Rathvarna House a grade B2 listing. This, along with the Tree Protection Orders placed on the site, will ensure the house continues to add to the character and setting of the area for the people of Lisburn. I would like to thank the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and local councillors for their support and look forward to seeing a revised planning application that will enable a sustainable future for the house."