Heritage dispute puts stay on inn demolition

HERITAGE concerns are stalling the demolition of the Midland Inn four years after it was damaged by fire, despite an engineer’s report warning that the structure is a danger to the public.

The Heritage Council of Western Australia is waiting on a Midland Redevelopment Authority-commissioned engineering report, due in about two weeks, to decide whether it is feasible to retain the building.

Former car dealer Gerry Hevron, who owns the building, said he had wanted it demolished since it was burnt out in 1999 because it posed a danger to the public.

Swan City Council records show Mr Hevron first applied to have the structure demolished in 1998.

Mr Hevron said he could not gain insurance on the property and was unsure whether he would be liable for compensation if the building were to collapse and injure somebody.

He said it would cost at least $2 million to rebuild the structure.

Scaffolding has supported the building’s facade since the fire.

Mr Hevron said a Swan City Council engineer’s report warned that if a car hit the scaffolding, which is about 30 metres from a ‘black spot’ intersection, there was a risk the facade could fall onto the road.

There are also concerns that the inn’s eastern wall could collapse onto the Anglicare building next door.

City of Swan CEO Eric Lumsden said while the inn’s future was still a matter for the MRA and the Heritage Council, the city was becoming concerned about the risk of collapse.

“Council has already received structural engineering reports that confirm the city’s concerns,” he told WA Business News.

The Heritage Council’s assessment documentation acknowledges that the building is potentially unsafe and Work-Safe has applied an order banning anyone from entering its interior.

The Swan Chamber of Commerce has a petition with more than 750 signatures calling for the building’s demolition.

Chamber president Peter McDowell said the chamber was even prepared to launch a class action against the Government to have the building demolished.

To make matters worse, Midland’s two planning authorities, the Swan City Council and the MRA, are arguing over who has jurisdiction over the site.

The council says it now falls within the MRA’s area, while MRA CEO Kieran Kinsella said he was seeking Crown Law advice over whether that was the case.

However, Heritage Minister Tom Stephens announced two weeks ago that, the Midland Inn has been given a full heritage listing, further delaying any moves to have the building torn down.

Mr Hevron had applied to the Heritage Council prior to the fire for some funds to help renovate the building, only to be told that it had insufficient heritage value.

He said he had become aware of problems on the site, such as poor footings, long before the fire.

Mr Hevron said that after the fire the Heritage Council had asked him to demolish the inn and he had filed the demolition application, only to be told that the council had decided the building had some historical significance after all.

The building was added to the interim heritage listing in August 1999, about three months before the fire.

Council recommended in 2001 that one of Mr Hevron’s applications to demolish the property be approved, suggesting that the facade could be retained. However, the Heritage Council refused to allow the building to come down.

A Heritage Council spokes-woman said it had put a $24,000 grant towards the scaffolding currently supporting the building’s facade.

“A Heritage Council grant of $55,000 was allocated to the owner in 2000-01 for a conservation plan and conservation works,” she said. “The owner has neither declined nor accepted the grant.”

The MRA had offered to buy the site from Mr Hevron but he refused its offer, which he described as “a pittance”.


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