The Corkman “Cowboys” and how ignoring planning regulations at a heritage listed hotel in Carlton caused a huge headache

Corkman Hotel Standing

The Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton

By days end on Sunday the 16th of October 2016 the historic Corkman Irish Pub, in Melbourne’s inner north suburb of Carlton, ceased to exist. After standing for more than 150 years at the corner of Leicester and Pelham Streets, it’s property developer owners called in a demolition crew the day prior and by early afternoon on the Sunday they had razed the building to the ground to make way for apartments. Stefce Kutlesovski and Raman Shaqirito were keen to cash in on Melbourne’s burgeoning property boom and the heavy demand for inner city residential dwellings. Unfortunately they’d gone about the process in all the wrong ways – flouting any protections afforded by a heritage overlay, ignoring the concerns of local council, the state government, community groups, the regulation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the ‘stop order’ issued by a City of Melbourne officer on the Saturday afternoon.

Textbook case

It’s fair to say the demolition of the Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton on the weekend of the 15th and 16th of October 2016 is now cited as a textbook case of how not to go about a development project. No planning approvals had been granted. No environmental reports had been conducted.

Mysterious fire

The freehold over the land and the building had been purchased in mid-2016 for $4.76 million, $1.76 million over reserve. In September 2016 a mysterious fire caused extensive damage and then a month later the pub was gone.

Backlash

The moment the wrecking ball first swung is the moment the developers opened themselves up to one of the biggest community backlashes and financial, legal and planning headaches seen in living memory within Melbourne’s property market. The city’s Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, referred to the illegal demolition as “the most brazen and wanton act of vandalism” he had seen in his political career. The EPA investigated and confirmed the presence of asbestos. The state planning minister instituted laws retrospectively to see that the developers could be given more than just a slap on the wrist.

Corkman Hotel Rubble

The Corkman Irish pub was illegally demolished in 2016

Hundreds or thousands of dollars

Melbourne is one of the most expensive cities to buy property in across the globe. Fines for breaches of regulations have become relatively paltry when compared to the large sums of money developers can make. In an environment of ever increasing house prices the culture prevails where developers are prepared to accept a fine of several hundreds or thousands of dollars which is loose change compared with the profits to be made.

It was clear the developers were comfortable with the risks. They’d already made millions in previous development projects – this would simply be another. No planning approvals? No worries. They were determined to proceed. They did not expect the response.

Breaches

By having a cavalier attitude to safety and environmental and planning processes, the developers were issues with a crippling 16 charges from the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) and Melbourne City Council for a range of breaches: demolition without a permit, ignoring a stop-work order, and carrying out demolition work while unregistered and in breach of planning laws. The authorities have thrown the book at them!

Robert Doyle Lord Mayor

Melbourne Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle

Not mincing words

The Planning Minister, Richard Wynn, didn’t mince his words. “The allegations that we make are that they have breached the Planning Act, the Building Act and a number of acts within the City of Melbourne’s jurisdiction.” he said. WorkCover and the Environment Protection Authority were still conducting further investigations. Fines could now total more than a million dollars.

Warning

This is a warning and strong message to anyone looking to develop property – you must get the proper approvals for every aspect of the work. Demolition, health, safety, planning and building all require the proper reporting and lodgement of documents.

Failure to plan

If you fail to plan then you plan to fail… or if you ignore the planning process then you will likely find yourself in a very bad legal and financial position. There are several levels of government and Planning and Building authorities that must be notified of major works and satisfied with proposals.

Arky Design Planning Manager

Kate Sullivan is Arky Design’s Planning Manager. We have 14 years experience in navigating the planning, building and legal requirements for large and small development projects. If you have a development that requires the proper planning and building permits and likely legal representation then don’t do what Stefce Kutlesovski and Raman Shaqirito did. Give us a call today and start the discussion.

Kate Sullivan:
kate@arkydesign.com.au
0430 825 723