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Building & Construction News Alert: Planning and Environment Court gives guidance on approvals for demolishing heritage homes

News Alert 14 June 2016

The Queensland Planning and Environment Court has recently weighed in on the controversial issue of redevelopment in the Brisbane suburb of West End by overruling a Brisbane City Council decision refusing an owner’s application to demolish two pre-1911 houses. 

The owner of the houses at 8 and 10 Amersham Street submitted a development application to obtain approval to demolish the houses, which was initially refused. In the appeal brought by Mr Farrah, the court was called on to decide whether the dwellings were reasonably capable of being made structurally sound. If not reasonably capable, the  planning instrument allowed the houses to be demolished.

While there was much deliberation over valuation evidence led by each of the parties, the court was ultimately persuaded by:

  • the absolute cost to make the houses structurally sound, which he found to be in the order of $96,000 and $136,000 respectively;
  • the risk that expenditure to make the houses structurally sound would not be recovered if the houses were sold in the open market; and
  • the fact that even once made ‘structurally sound’ the houses would be far from habitable and would require considerable further expenditure to become so, potentially leading to the dwellings being left to deteriorate again.

It could be argued that each of these issues in itself would not be sufficient to demonstrate that the dwelling was not reasonably capable of being made structurally sound. Valuation evidence suggested the ‘as is’ values of the dwellings were $970,000 and $920,000 respectively, which puts the absolute costs in some perspective. However, in circumstances where it was recognised that the costs may not be recovered if the property was sold in a structurally sound but not habitable state, these expenses were seen as unreasonable. The judge seemed to be recognising that the impact of refusal may be that the property is left to deteriorate until such a point that it can be demolished and redeveloped, which was clearly not the intention of the planning instrument.

While this outcome will be encouraging for developers, it is still difficult to formulate any sort of rules as to when preservation will be required, as what is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of the particular case at hand. This decision, however, is unlikely to be met with approval by existing residents concerned with preserving character and exclusivity in the area.


Tony Mylne, Partner
Brisbane

Joshua Liddle, Solicitor
Brisbane

News Alert 14 June 2016
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