IN what seems likely to sound the final death knell for one of Warwick's oldest buildings, the Planning and Environment Court of Queensland yesterday quashed a legal bid to save the older of the two Plumb's Chambers buildings on Fitzroy Street.
Canning Downs stud owner John Barnes and architect Geoff Cook launched their court appeal in February after the Southern Downs Regional Council and the State Government signed off on the demolition of 82 Fitzroy Street, which dates back to the 1860s.
The council also approved demolition of the rear of the slightly younger of the two Plumb's buildings at 84 Fitzroy Street, to help make way for a planned expansion of Rose City Shoppingworld.
Rose City owners the McConaghy Group have committed publicly to preserving the front section of 84, although detail on what form its re-use would take has been scant and no formal approval of the centre's expansion has yet been given by Council.
The Council admitted in February that 82 Fitzroy Street had been “inadvertently” left off its own local heritage list for Warwick, despite both of the Plumb's buildings being recognised on the State Heritage Register.
While a technicality under Queensland's planning laws, the error was enough for the court to yesterday decide it was unable to consider the demolition of 82 as part of the Barnes-Cook case.
The ruling effectively ushers in the wrecking crews, with Plumb's Chambers' future a controversial and at times sore point locally.
A disappointed Mr Barnes yesterday told the Daily News his own research since lodging the appeal had turned up evidence that 82 Fitzroy Street may be the oldest shop in Queensland, with Warwick the first free settlement.
“This has to be confirmed, but it is clear that the bricks used for the older of the two Plumb's Chambers buildings – which dates to around 1860 – came from the same brick-pit as those in the Canning Downs stables, built in 1859,” Mr Barnes said.
“The brick walls (of 82 Fitzroy Street) are actually in good condition, and it will be a sacrilege if this building is destroyed for a (truck) driveway.
“We have successfully restored similar structures at Canning Downs that were in far worse condition, and there are plenty of examples of buildings like this being kept as part of shopping centres in other States.
“The internal fit-out can also be made to bevery modern.
“The main message is that if anyone can find an older shop than this one in Queensland I would love to hear from them.”
Mr Barnes said the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which administers the State Heritage Register, had not inspected the Plumb's buildings since the McConaghy Group lodged its demolition plans with Council.
He said the EPA had been “fooled by a two-card trick” by the McConaghy Group to offer restoration of the front of 84 Fitzroy Street as a compromise to advance the Rose City expansion.
An earlier application by the Group for the expansion was withdrawn pending the outcome of the Plumb's issue, and no new application has yet to come to Council.
However, in-principle approval has been given by Council for an access ramp in the middle of Fitzroy Street into the Rose City underground car park, with Plumb's in the way of what would be a massive new truckturn-around zone.
Mr Barnes' co-appellant, architect Geoff Cook – who divides his time between Brisbane and Warwick – said the remaining section of the appeal against the demolition of the rear of 84 Fitzroy Street, allowed by the court, would continue.
But he said the expansion and the Plumb's demolition should have been considered together by Council, instead of in “piecemeal” fashion.
McConaghy Group owner Robert McConaghy said yesterday the Planning and Environment Court's decision “appears to uphold the validity of the Council and (State Government) processes, to which we paid due regard”.
Plumb's Chambers...is important in illustrating the transformation of Warwick in the late 1860s and 1870s from a squatters' town to the centre of Queensland's most prosperous agricultural district.
The c1860s brick building may represent the start of this movement; the 1874-75 building is indicative of Warwick's first building boom
Both buildings are important in illustrating the design, materials and construction techniques of mid-19th century masonry building in Queensland and have potential to reveal further information about
19th century stone and brick construction.
Both buildings occupy a prominent role in the streetscape along Fitzroy Street, and the pitch of the roofs contribute to the unity of the street.
(Source – Queensland Heritage Register)