By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier
Developers sparked outrage over the weekend after demolishing the Corkman Irish Pub, a 140-year-old pub in Carlton, without Council approval.
Image care of Facebook
Developers Stefce Kutlesovski, founder of Makland Group, which develops apartment complexes; and Raman Shaqiri, who owns a demolition and excavation business, purchased the Corkman Irish Pub in 2014 for $4.6 million, with the previous owners taking over The Last Jar, an Irish pub one block away.
The developers closed the pub upon purchasing it, but no development application has been made to demolish the building, let alone permission given. A fortnight ago the building had been partly damaged in a fire, but on Saturday 15 October, a demolition crew began to raze the building. A stop-work order was issued by Melbourne City Council after complaints were made by neighbours, however the demolition was completed on Sunday in violation of the order.
The actions have been decried by many groups in Melbourne, from the Lord Mayor Robert Doyle to Melbourne Heritage Action, and Melbourne University student groups who frequented the nearby pub when it was open.
A City of Melbourne spokesperson addressed the actions, stating:
“City of Melbourne staff have commenced an investigation into the demolition of the Corkman Irish Pub on the corner of Leicester and Pelham streets in Carlton.
“The two storey rendered brick hotel was constructed in the mid 1880s and was covered by Heritage Overlay (HO085.)
“A fire occurred at the building on Saturday 8 October, 2016. Then late on the evening on Saturday 15 October 2016, calls were received from residents complaining about demolition noise from the site. On attendance it was found that the building had been all but demolished.
“The owner/demolisher were unable to provide a demolition building permit. They were instructed to cease demolition work immediately and a Stop Work Order was issued.
“Neither a planning permit or building permit have been issued for the demolition of the building and there are no approved plans for its future development.
“The City of Melbourne is currently investigating the matter and will take appropriate enforcement action once investigations conclude.”
A petition started by law students from the University of Melbourne has called for the developers to rebuild the pub, echoed by other Melbourne groups who suggest at least the heritage façade should be reconstructed.
While fines for unlawful demolition are in the vicinity of $200,000, many have noted that this is not a hefty punishment for developers who stand to gain millions from redeveloping the site.
In a statement on their website, Melbourne Heritage Action decries what is viewed as an insignificant fine, and applauds the efforts of Planning Minister Richard Wynne, who will look into more severe penalties.
“Melbourne Heritage Action looks forward to increased penalties specifically for willful heritage demolitions. Perhaps it should be a large proportion of the value of the site, so that the fine would make development unviable – we need the best deterrent possible to ensure this never happens again.”
The action group stated that it would also write to the City of Melbourne to encourage them to pursue the maximum penalties for the developers. A combination of maximum penalties under the Building Act and Planning Act would result in fines of up $1 million for the companies and individuals involved.
In light of the illegal demolition, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has called for a Green Ban on any future development on the site, meaning CFMEU members are advised to not take part in any further development of the site.
“The architecture and stonemasonry of this building represent a bygone era that has largely been overtaken by modern building techniques such as pre-fabricated panels, flat pack kitchens and modular bathrooms. We won’t let greedy property developers strip Victoria of our building heritage – we’re defending the heritage of our trade and of our state,” said John Setka, secretary of CFMEU Victoria.
“We’re calling on the Melbourne City Council and the State Government to take this site off these heritage vandals, and put it to public use.”