DERM has granted an “exemption certificate” to the McConaghy Group for safety work to start on Plumb’s Chambers, but work is yet to begin.
DERM has granted an “exemption certificate” to the McConaghy Group for safety work to start on Plumb’s Chambers, but work is yet to begin.

Urgent Plumb's work given nod

URGENT safety work needed on the controversial Plumb’s Chambers on Fitzroy Street in Warwick has not yet started, despite the State Government giving it the go-ahead more than a fortnight ago.

Immediate concerns were raised in April by the Warwick Police and the Southern Downs Regional Council about the structural safety of one of the two Plumb’s buildings, at 84 Fitzroy Street.

The building sits next to the police station alongside Haig Avenue – an access into the Rose City Shoppingworld underground car park – with the avenue having been closed off since April 21.

Orange safety tape has also prevented public access along the footpath in front of the buildings since the same date.

Fears are held for the stability of the sandstone wall of number 84 – along Haig Ave – and the ceiling below the front veranda, with owner the McConaghy Group telling the Daily News on April 28 that public safety was their paramount concern.

With both of the Plumb’s Chambers buildings listed on the Queensland Heritage Register, State Government approval is necessary to undertake even emergency work.

Despite the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) granting this to the McConaghy Group just over two weeks ago work is yet to begin, with many locals critical of what they see as “demolition by neglect” of the Plumb’s site.

The buildings are at the centre of a legal battle over demolition of most of the site, which has thrown a spanner in the works of a plan by the McConaghy Group to expand Rose City Shoppingworld, which it also owns.

A DERM spokesman yesterday confirmed an “exemption certificate” had been issued to the Group under the State Heritage Act on May 13, “enabling urgent emergency works to be undertaken at 84 Fitzroy Street”.

“The owners are allowed to undertake low-level structural work including an engineered brace to stop the wall (along Haig Avenue) from collapsing,” he said.

Comment was sought from the McConaghy Group yesterday, with a Gold Coast-based media consultant engaged by the firm advising they were “not in a position to make a statement or response at this stage”.

Mayor Ron Bellingham said he had not been made aware permission had been given for the work until contacted by the Daily News.

But he said he would make contact with the McConaghy Group on Monday to gain an insight into their plans.

“Obviously this issue is primarily of concern for the Group and also their lessees in the Rose City centre, in terms of both safety and access,” Cr Bellingham said.

“What council is concerned about is the footpath access and the appearance of the safety tape in front of those two buildings.

“They are subject to legal issues but I’d like to see the footpath back to its proper alignment and the safety aspect needs to be addressed.

“The ceiling below the veranda on 84 has become detached – which is why the footpath was closed – and the rain in summer is believed to be responsible for movement in the sandstone wall. In fact, the two may I suspect be related.”

Legal action to attempt to save Plumb’s Chambers from demolition was launched by Canning Downs stud owner and local heritage campaigner John Barnes last January.

The McConaghy Group has committed to restoring the front of 84 Fitzroy Street but wants to demolish the rear section and all of number 82 next door, to make way for a truck turning pad and a new entrance to the Rose City underground car park in the middle of the street.

The Planning and Environment Court has previously ruled the demolitions can proceed as per council and State approvals, but Mr Barnes argues these did not take into account the Rose City expansion plan.

His current legal bid is aimed at convincing the court that the proposed demolitions are part of the wider expansion plan for the centre and under Queensland’s planning laws cannot be dealt with separately.

No formal application for the expansion is yet with council but the concept has been approved in principle.

In Mr Barnes’ favour is a condition set by DERM that 82 and the rear of 84 cannot be knocked down until the front of 84 has been restored.

He was unavailable for comment yesterday.

The case is next listed for a hearing in July.

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