Fight for Plumb's survival hots up

Canning Downs stud owner John Barnes and architect Geoff Cook believe Plumb’s Chambers should be preserved “as an important part of our heritage”.
Canning Downs stud owner John Barnes and architect Geoff Cook believe Plumb’s Chambers should be preserved “as an important part of our heritage”.

THE latest salvo in a legal battle to save parts of Plumb’s Chambers on Fitzroy Street from the wrecker’s ball has been fired by Canning Downs stud owner John Barnes.

Mr Barnes and his co-appellant, architect Geoff Cook, appealed to the Planning and Environment Court of Queensland in February last year to overturn a council decision to allow demolition of the older of the two Plumb’s buildings at 82 Fitzroy Street and the rear of its neighbour at 84.

That court rejected the pair’s appeal on December 14, but they are now seeking leave to take the matter higher to Queensland’s Court of Appeal, arguing the Planning and Environment Court made a mistake of law in its December decision.

As reported earlier, Rose City Shoppingworld owners the McConaghy Group wants to demolish sections of Plumb’s Chambers to construct a truck-turning bay and a new underground car park entrance as part of a proposed extension to the shopping centre.

The McConaghy Group has yet to apply for council approval for the extension, with the Barnes appeal arguing that any demolition of Plumb’s must be assessed as part of the wider Rose City Shoppingworld plan.

The council and the courts have previously taken the view that the Plumb’s demolition is a standalone issue.

Mr Barnes has told the Daily News it is his strong belief the demolition plan amounted to what, in planning terms, is known as a “material change of use”, which means it is a major development to which the public has the right to object.

“Built around 1860, 82 Fitzroy Street is one of Warwick’s oldest buildings and possibly the oldest shop of its type in Queensland,” Mr Barnes said.

“Geoff Cook and I believe that it is important that the building be preserved as an important part of our heritage.”

McConaghy Group owner Robert McConaghy has previously committed to preserving the front section of number 84 but has not said what it will be used for.

He told the Daily News in January he would not be making any further comment on the Plumb’s Chambers issue.

As reported on January 25 safety tape put up across the front of the Plumb’s buildings sparked speculation demolition work was imminent.

But our inquiries revealed the tape was there for what the council described as “safety reasons”, with a spokeswoman saying they had been contacted by the McConaghy Group with a request for permission to do urgent work on the site due to damage from the December and January rains.

It remains unclear what the “safety” work would involve and the council has so far been unable to provide details.

It is understood, however, they have referred the request to the Queensland Department of Environment, as Plumb’s Chambers is state heritage-listed.

The court of appeal is yet to give a date on which it will rule if the Barnes appeal can proceed. If given the go-ahead a hearing date would need to be set.

In other town planning news, developer and property owner John Doherty is taking the council to court over its refusal of his application to reconfigure lot boundaries on land he owns on the Warwick-Allora Road at Rosehill.

Mr Doherty wanted to re-draw lot boundaries to create three “new” and more saleable lots, but the council ruled any houses on the reconfigured lots would be too close to a nearby sandstone mine.

No hearing date has been set.

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