We shared in the delight of campaigners in Holywood when the town's Conservation Area was designated in May 2004. However more was at stake than planning status and the publication of some new guidelines by the DoE.
The Holywood Conservation Group had been fighting to save a pair of early 19th century houses at 9-11 Bangor Road, which were not listed despite being substantially unaltered. Planners had refused permission to demolish them to make way for an apartment block, but this decision was controversially overturned at appeal.
The residents sought a judicial review of that decision, and kept an eye on the buildings. A few days before the announcement of the conservation area (after which demolition would require planning consent) the last occupants of the houses moved out and it seemed the bulldozers were about to move in. The residents sought an interim injunction to prevent the demolition of the buildings before the conservation area was in place.
This was granted, and the conservation area was duly announced the following day. The judges hearing the case declared that developers MAR Properties Ltd had "acted unconscionably" in proposing to demolish the houses covertly at 5.30am on the morning of the conservation area announcement. EHS was criticized for not having listed the two buildings using its spot listing powers, which would have provided temporary protection for the buildings pending the announcement of the conservation area, and made the residents' injunction unnecessary.
This story epitomizes the importance of local residents forming a group, becoming knowledgeable about and committed to the built heritage of their area, and having the courage not to be cowed by the power and financial muscle of large scale developers. While the Society can support them with experience and expertise, local activists can concentrate their efforts more intensely and achieve a great deal.