Hobart Council ticks off demolition of former Rebels bikie HQ

The current look of 1 Burnett Street, North Hobart, the former clubhouse of the Rebels bikie gang. SUPPLIED
The current look of 1 Burnett Street, North Hobart, the former clubhouse of the Rebels bikie gang. SUPPLIED

Demolition of the former Rebels bikie clubhouse has been given the green light in a vote that could have significant implications for Hobart’s heritage buildings.

A special Hobart City Council meeting last night voted 6-3 to reject their heritage officer’s recommendation and grant developer Drew Ketley approval to knock down the 1906 Italianate-style brick house in North Hobart.

The property on the corner of Burnett and Letitia streets — used by the Rebels since the early 2000s up until a few weeks ago — is not individually heritage listed but does form part of the North Hobart Heritage Precinct.

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Ketley told the Mercury after the decision he was glad common sense prevailed.

One of the four townhouses is for himself and another for his elderly parents, which will be specially fitted with wheelchair access for his mother.

“I’m ecstatic, a little bit shocked,” Ketley says “It’s great work by the aldermen to stick to their guns and realise there had to be some grey area.”

Council’s heritage officer Nick Booth faced intense questioning from elected members during the planning committee meeting prior to the council meeting.

Booth recommended refusal on the grounds that demolishing the house would detract and diminish cultural heritage values.

He said it was clear the area had a number of newer buildings but no heritage precinct was 100 per cent pristine and there was nothing to stop the building being repainted in any colour.

Hobart Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds say heritage is a central part of Hobart’s planning scheme. Picture: PATRICK GEE

But Ketley says its heritage value was lost long ago when the Rebels turned it into their fortress.

“Before that it was a morgue, that’s never going to change — there’s been several thousands of bodies go through the place,” he says.

He says he hopes the decision will have implications for future planning decisions and mean that each development is taken on a case-by-case basis, rather than a blanket rule.

Deputy Lord Mayor Helen Burnet says Hobart is seeing a gradual erosion of its heritage stock and precincts.

Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds says it sets a significant precedent to demolish a building identified as playing a vital role in a heritage precinct.

She says officers can’t recall council ever previously approving such a move.

“(Heritage) is a central part of our planning scheme,” Cr Reynolds says.

“There’s a lot of development that’s possible within and around our heritage code and I don’t think it deserves that this has now become such an attack on the staff and the heritage planning provisions.”

Alderman Simon Behrakis — who moved the motion to approve the development — says the council’s heritage rules are broken and need rebalancing.

“Any heritage values the site may have had have long since been destroyed and instead the empty building will now be replaced by much needed housing,” he says.

This article from The Mercury originally appeared as “Green light to demolish former Rebels bikie clubhouse in North Hobart given by Hobart City Council”.