THE recent approval for the demolition of the historic Court Hotel and two nearby double-storey brick and iron commercial buildings by the City of Perth has sparked complaints that council is not doing enough to protect its heritage buildings.
Council approved the development application for a proposed tavern, serviced apartment and apartment development on the corner of Beaufort and James streets, despite the Heritage Council advising against it.
The Court Hotel and associated buildings were situated within the proposed Northbridge East Precinct, which was awaiting assessment for entry on the State Register of Heritage Places.
Heritage Council of WA director Stephen Carrick said the council had suggested to the City that options for retention and adaptive re-use of the existing heritage buildings in the proposed redevelopment site be explored.
“The Heritage Council also expressed concern to the City of Perth of the scale, massing and height of the proposed development,” he said.
Mr Carrick said the Heritage Council had no statutory power under the Heritage Act in relation to development of a non-registered place and was only able to provide advice to a decision-making authority.
Inner City Society president Andrew Main said the demolition approval was another example of the council’s disregard for heritage buildings.
Mr Main said the buildings to be demolished had been listed as category two on the City of Perth Municipal Inventory – a list of places of heritage importance – but that only category one buildings had officially been included on the list.
“The tragedy is that if the City had been required to fulfil its obligations these buildings would be on the City’s heritage list and we would not have this present situation,” he said.
Mr Main said the Minister for Heritage needed to step in to save Perth’s links to the past.
“The City of Perth has not fulfilled its obligations under the Heritage Act by compiling a comprehensive municipal heritage inventory.
“If the State Government is serious about preserving our heritage it needs to step in because if it is left to the City of Perth nothing will be left but the 200 or so heritage buildings on the Municipal Inventory.”
Currently the City of Perth Municipal Inventory contains 225 category one buildings of heritage importance.
Deputy Lord Mayor Judy McEvoy said the buildings that would be demolished to make way for the new development were not heritage listed and that council did what it thought was right at the time.
Ms McEvoy said council had formed a heritage committee two years ago to determine what category two and three buildings would be listed on the Municipal Inventory, however, the issue of compensation for heritage building owners had proven to be a stumbling block.
“You have to be very sure what we can offer them. You can compensate with rate release or bonus plot ratio but it doesn’t come to much – this is the worry and why it has taken us so long,” she said.
“Some of the buildings are a person’s superannuation. What are we going to give them if they can’t redevelop or build on that site?”
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