By Rohan Storey
The latest news is that Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski, the developers who illegally demolished the 1856 Corkman Irish pub in Carlton, are removing the debris from the site (which contained asbestos), and are disposing it.
They are not keeping any elements, not even the bluestone blocks that formed the window surrounds. These would have been salvageable and able to be reused, even if a bit broken, and would have been an interesting graphic reminder of what happened.
Melbourne Heritage Action (MHA) has not been involved in the various Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) hearings, court cases or the behind-the -scenes mediation, so we don’t know why these developers could not be forced to at least reconstruct the façade though an “enforcement order”.
This has happened to a number of other places in Melbourne in the last 15 years, whereby a permit was issued to retain a façade as part of a development, but was demolished, usually due to “safety concerns”. There have been at least four other cases, and in each one the lost façade was reconstructed, though only one of the four is a good reproduction of what was lost.
Instead, the Minister for Planning Richard Wynne at first tried a site-specific amendment mandating reconstruction with no taller development, but this was challenged all the way to the Supreme Court. Local objectors and the City of Melbourne started an enforcement action at VCAT to require a rebuild, but this was never heard. Instead, a mediation (the details of which remain confidential) resulted in a deal that only the developers would be happy with.
They have to turn the site into a park (which they are doing now), and only if they don’t start a development by July 2022 do they have to reconstruct the pub. So, expect a proposal soon that will have 12 levels and some vague reference to the old pub. This is an even worse result than if they had just kept the façade, and built a development as allowed for in the first place.
The only punishment the developers will bear is the $1.3 million loss in fines for doing something without a permit, and not disposing of the asbestos properly – this will eat into their profits, but they will still come out winners and we will be the poorer.