The illegal demolition of the Corkman Irish Hotel in Carlton has raised some challenging questions. Not only has it put the owners in the firing line, it’s stirred questions about existing penalties for such behaviour as well as the viability of demolition in general.
According to sustainability experts, we may soon reach a point where knocking down a building even legally will only happen as a last resort when the building has entirely deteriorated.
At last count the damage from the Corkman has extended much further than the direct demolition. So far, 160 Leicester Pty Ltd, associated with Stefce Kutlesovski and Raman Shaqiri, has incurred the wrath of the Victorian EPA, Melbourne City Council, WorkSafe, the CFMEU, the Victorian State Government and the National Trust of Australia.
The Victorian Police Arson Squad is investigating a fire that had occurred at the hotel earlier this month, labelling it suspicious, and two Melbourne University law students, who along with their colleagues use the Corkman as a favoured watering hole, have lodged a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal application.
Thousands of people have also signed a petition calling for the developers to be forced to rebuild the heritage-listed pub brick-by-brick.
The Victorian Property Council has also condemned the destruction.
“The Property Council is appalled at the demolition of the Corkman Hotel in Carlton,” Sally Capp, Victorian executive director said.
“Very clear rules about development are in place and they should always be followed. We expect the authorities to investigate what has happened and ensure that the law and its related consequences are applied.”
The disgust is bipartisan on the part of the state government.
Planning minister Richard Wynn labelled the developers “cowboys” and promised to pursue maximum penalties. The Victorian Liberal Party also waded in, stating that penalties needed to be made stricter to discourage other developers following the example.
In a media statement, the Liberals said the unlawful demolition of the historical Corkman Irish Pub is “an absolute outrage but Daniel Andrews and Richard Wynne are threatening to punish the developers by thrashing them with a wet lettuce.
“Richard Wynne claims the penalty might be around $200,000. This is the equivalent of a parking ticket to a millionaire.
“It is clear developers who stand to make huge profits from unauthorised heritage demolitions are not concerned about the current fines or orders of government.”
The Liberals suggest that if current fines are not enough of a punishment, options such as a ban on future permits or being made to rebuild the original facade should be considered.
A ban might extend over the owners’ other sites
A ban could be bad news for the viability of other projects Kutlesovski and Shaquiri are undertaking via another company they own, MakShaq. They include 8 Lygon, a multi-residential project currently being marketed by Colliers International and Havenlea at Cairnlea in Melbourne’s West being marketed by RPM Real Estate Group.
Kutlesovski is also the founder of another property development company, Makland, which acquired a high rise development site in the Box Hill Activity Centre for more than $13 million in May this year, with plans to develop a residential tower.
As it is, the CFMEU and the Building Industry Group of unions have announced a “green ban” has been placed on the Corkman site, stating that all members are advised not to work on the site until the unions are satisfied the site will become a community asset.
Luke Hilakari, Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary said the developers should be made to surrender the site to Melbourne City Council as a penalty.
“It doesn’t matter how big the fine is if at the end of the day these cowboy developers still profit from the vandalism of Victoria’s heritage. Even if we tripled the fines, you’d just see phoenix operations move in,” Mr Hilakari said.
“This could have been any heritage site. Are we going to wait until developers tear down Parliament or the Town Hall? Or are we going to send a message that we take heritage vandalism seriously?”
The EPA is investigating on two fronts, firstly to ensure the waste removed on the weekend was not illegally disposed of, secondly to ensure that asbestos found in rubble that still remained at the site has not been improperly disposed of.
Metropolitan manager, Daniel Hunt said the EPA will attempt to contact the site owners to inform them of the penalties that apply if the demolition waste is disposed of illegally.
Illegal dumping of construction and demolition waste is a particular focus for the EPA, with penalties of up to $758,350 for dumping it illegally or allowing it to be disposed of illegally, Mr Hunt said.
The agency will also be working with WorkSafe on the asbestos issue and with the Victorian Building Authority and City of Melbourne on the wider inquiries.
WorkSafe has ordered air monitoring to begin at the site, and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade was called in today to dampen down the site to prevent asbestos dust becoming windborne.
Company owners yet to be located
Mr Hunt said the company has been issued with a notice to hold them to account for the waste and to prevent any asbestos from leaving the site, but those who owned the company are yet to be located.
City of Melbourne is also shaking the fines jar at the developers. Potential penalties include up to $388,650 for breaching the Stop Work Order issued by the metropolitan building surveyor while the illegal demolition work was underway, up to $388,650 for carrying out building work without a permit, and up to $186,552 for carrying out development without a planning permit.
“The City Of Melbourne will be taking action under both the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and Building Act 1993, for which it is responsible for administering,” the council said.
“We will take appropriate enforcement action once investigations conclude.”
?The Advocacy and Conservation Team of the National Trust of Australia said the site, which the developers bought for $4.8 million on 30 October 2014 had been advertised before selling as a site with development potential.
It said however that the actual plans the developer does have for the site are “unknown” as no planning application had been lodged.
It noted that the site is within the City of Melbourne’s Capital City Zone, with the planning scheme allowing development to 40 metres, with a 24m street wall [podium] height onto Leicester Street.
Any part of the building above 24m must be setback 6m from the street. The scheme also requires new buildings to “respect the rich heritage fabric of the area “. Development on the site is also constrained by its inclusion in the Heritage Overlay (HO85).
“But none of these planning controls take into account the community value of the hotel, and others like it. The same story is playing out all over Melbourne – and abroad. Locally, communities have been outraged by the closure of much-loved pubs such as the London Hotel, “The Edgy” in Mentone, and the North Fitzroy Star, while in the UK, The Guardian has reported in depth on the growing trend of pubs falling victim to developers, and the community campaign to save The Golden Lion in Camden.
“And while the National Trust has a role in advocating for the best possible development outcomes for these places, we are constrained by the mechanisms for protection which are provided by local planning schemes and the Heritage Act, which are generally limited to the conservation of fabric, not retaining the historic use.”
This is where the sustainability dimension could play a role in preserving buildings.
— Richard Wynne (@rwynnemp) October 17, 2016
— ABC Melbourne (@abcmelbourne) October 17, 2016
[ABC Radio Melbourne]