Minister flags tough penalties after Corkman Irish Pub demolished

The Corkman Irish Pub was demolished illegally.

Victoria’s Planning Minister is considering new penalties for developments that affect heritage buildings following the unauthorised demolition of the Melbourne University law school’s favourite watering hole last week.

The Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton — previously known as the Carlton Inn — was knocked down by a demolition company associated with Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski, without a permit being obtained, despite a heritage overlay on the building facade.

Shaqiri and Kutlesovski bought the pub last year for $4.67 million and the pair are involved in a number of developments across the city.

The pub’s demolition has drawn heavy controversy.

The site has been confirmed as having asbestos contamination, according to Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority, although Melbourne City Council says there is no evidence it was airborne.

Construction unions have also slapped a green ban on the site, the first time the CFMEU has boycotted a Melbourne site in this way for a decade.

The property owners have thumbed their noses at Victoria’s planning and building rules

Debate is now raging over whether heritage laws in the state have to be toughened and Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne says he is looking at harsher fines.

“We are looking at tougher penalties for illegal demolition because fines need to be a deterrent, not the cost of doing business in Victoria,” Wynne says.

Wynne also ordered the Victorian Building Authority to investigate the possibility of separate fines for the illegal demolition of commercial buildings.

The Minister says the Corkman pub demolition is “unusual” and he is working with the EPA, the Melbourne City Council and WorkCover to ensure the site was safe.

“The property owners have thumbed their noses at Victoria’s planning and building rules.”

“They’re in a lot of trouble,” Wynne says.

Kutlesovski and Shaqiri may face up to $750,000 in fines if they are found to have acted unlawfully. But there are concerns they may only be liable for $200,000 due to a lack of definition under existing rules.

We are looking at tougher penalties for illegal demolition because fines need to be a deterrent, not the cost of doing business in Victoria

National Trust of Victoria CEO Simon Ambrose says he wants more public discussion about appropriate penalties and controls over properties with heritage overlay.

“We’re calling it the Carlton Inn-Corkman precedent and we’re empowering the Minister to have a serious investigation into what we can do stop this from happening again,” Ambrose says.

Ambrose says the National Trust is not being “prescriptive” about changes or penalties but sees an opportunity to reignite the heritage movement in the state.

The body has argued that the building should be completely recreated. Ambrose says the trust will also join a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal action launched by two Melbourne University students.

“We think it could be a great space to educate people about heritage buildings and how best to care and maintain them,” Ambrose says.

Shari and Kutlesovski were unavailable for comment.

This article originally appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au/property.