• VCAT

February 2, 2021

Minister announces tougher punishments for illegal demolition of heritage buildings

Following the illegal demolition of a heritage listed building in 2016 (Read article here), the Victorian Government is planning to introduce a piece of legislation which could stop development on a property for up to a decade if heritage buildings are illegally demolished.

The proposed legislation will cover buildings that have been unlawfully demolished, either in full or in part, and where the owners have been charged with unlawful demolition. Victorian Planning Minister, Richard Wynne, said the legislation is targeted at developers who plan to illegally demolish buildings and expecting to reap windfall gains from just selling or rebuilding on their land.

The legislation was prompted by the unlawful demolition of the 160-year-old Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton in 2016. The Corkman Pub, formerly known as the Carlton Inn Hotel, was built in 1858. Although it was not on the Victorian Heritage Register, it was covered by a heritage overlay. It was demolished over a weekend in 2016, a week after a fire was lit inside the building. The developer was later jailed for a month and ordered to pay more than $400,000 in fines and legal costs.

Victorian Planning Minister, Richard Wynne, said the illegal demolition of the Carlton Inn Hotel was “unprecedented in planning in the state of Victoria” and strong action to protect heritage buildings was needed.

The proposed legislation will also enable existing permits to be revoked and allow for new permits to be issued for specific purposes, such as building a park or reconstruction or repair of the heritage building. These new provisions are a significant strengthening of the current enforcement regime and are expected to act as a powerful deterrent to the unlawful demolition of buildings of heritage significance.

The minister also said the reform complemented measures that the Government introduced in 2017, which made it an indictable offence for a builder or person managing building work to knowingly carry out works without a permit or in the contravention of the Building Act, the regulations or their permit.

Melbourne is home to many heritage buildings and present major hurdles for planning applications. On a separate planning matter relating to planning applications affected by heritage overlays, St Vincent’s Hospital recently lodged plans to demolish the building the corner of Victoria Parade and Nicholson Street, a building that overlooks Carlton Gardens. While the building will not be illegally demolished, the hospital plans to replace it with a new 11-storey tower with glass façade with parts of the original façade at Daly Wing and Brenan Hall retained. The proposal already raising concerns that it would impact the World Heritage value of the Royal Exhibition Building moments after lodging the plans to City of Yarra Council. For the full article, click here.

It is commonplace for land owners to consider ‘heritage overlays’ and ‘heritage listings’ as significant barriers to the development potential of sites. While there is credence to this belief, it is not true to say that just because a property has some form of heritage control that the site is undevelopable and demolition is not possible. In an article produced by our team, we look at the town planning heritage controls that can affect a site and describe the likely implications of each for the development potential of the site. If you would like to know more about how to deal with ‘heritage overlays’ and ‘heritage listings’ in a planning permit application.