Demolition order given without a word of warning

Developers can now demolish Plumbs Chambers in Warwick.
Developers can now demolish Plumbs Chambers in Warwick. Jeremy Sollars

HERITAGE advocates have slammed the state government for failing to make public a decision late last year to approve the demolition of part of the controversial Plumbs Chambers site on Fitzroy St, Warwick.

The Daily News can reveal the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) approved an application by Rose City Shoppingworld owner the McConaghy Group to demolish the older of the two Plumbs buildings - number 82 - just before Christmas 2012.

But it failed to notify objectors to the demolition, citing a lack of legal obligation, and also the Southern Downs Regional Council which is adamant it received no written advice of the approval, issued on December 21 last year.

The state heritage-listed Plumbs Chambers buildings - including the brick and timber structure at 82 Fitzroy St and its later sandstone neighbour 84, next to the police station - are on the site of a planned expansion of Rose City Shoppingworld.

The McConaghy Group has previously committed to restoring the main section of 84, but 82 - believed to be the oldest shop in Queensland - is in the way of an enlarged loading bay for an expanded centre.

Following a court challenge over an approval to demolish a small rear section of 84, which it lost, the McConaghy Group applied in July last year to the state government for approval to proceed with restoring 84 and knocking down 82.

One objector to the demolition of 82 was Canning Downs stud owner John Barnes who, as well as spearheading the court case, has previously offered to purchase 82 Fitzroy for $500,000 and restore it himself.

Mr Barnes said he was "aghast" to learn the decision had been made months ago yet interested parties were not advised by EHP.

"Surely there is an obligation on the part of the department to notify those who made submissions (on the demolition application) and the council," he said.

"The community is entitled to know what has been decided and if Warwick is best served by these buildings being part of the historic streetscape of Fitzroy St, with the police station and courthouse, or a truck turnout bay."

Fellow heritage campaigner and Glengallan Homestead stalwart Donna Fraser agreed, saying it had been suggested the future of the police station and courthouse could be in doubt if Rose City Shoppingworld were to expand.

"Fitzroy St is the last heritage precinct in the CBD - when it goes, the character of the place goes with it, just another country town dominated by look-alike shopping centres," Mrs Fraser said.

"Number 82 Fitzroy St is now doomed to be replaced by a loading dock, and that makes three loading docks on three of the busiest streets in the CBD.

"Try driving down any of those streets when there's a delivery truck trying to back out of the shopping centre."

Mrs Fraser questioned if the State Heritage Council, the National Trust and the Southern Downs Regional Council - all of which responded the EHP on the demolition plan - considered the reason Plumbs Chambers was put on the State heritage register

"Or were they swayed by what it might cost the developer to repair?" she said.

"The approval to demolish number 82 destroys a little bit more of what sets Warwick apart from any other place in Queensland.

"It is one more step towards mediocrity - does the Rose City really deserve to be beige?"

A spokeswoman for EHP produced the written decision notice this week which was 'CC'd' to the council last December, saying there was no "statutory requirement" for the department to advise such objectors as Mr Barnes.

But a council spokeswoman was equally adamant no such advice had been received at any stage.

The council also told the Daily News in May this year it believed the application was still being assessed by EHP.

McConaghy Group owner Robert McConaghy declined to comment yesterday on any planed timeframe around the start of the demolition work on 82 and the restoration of 84.


What do you think? Write a letter to the editor, 50 Albion St, Warwick QLD 4370.

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