The developers who illegally demolished a 159-year-old Melbourne pub have been found in contempt of court for their failure to clear the site.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruled that developers Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski did not comply with an order to clear the site of demolition material—including asbestos fragments.
Proceedings were filed in August against the developers after they failed to deliver on their promise to build a temporary park at the razed site under an agreement they reached with planning minister Richard Wynne in May 2019.
The Corkman Irish Pub, which had stood on the corner of Leicester and Pelham Street in Carlton since 1857, opposite the University of Melbourne Law School, was bulldozed in October 2016 contrary to the provisions of the Melbourne planning scheme.
At the time of the demolition, the pair ignored a stop-work order issued by the City of Melbourne, bulldozing 80 per cent of the pub on the Saturday, before finishing the demolition the following day.
The developers were initially fined almost $2 million for destroying the building, however, last year a county court appeal led to the fines being reduced to $1.1 million.
VCAT justice Michelle Quigley said it was clear the developers chose only to take steps that they wished to take and no more.
“The tribunal finds the company and each of the directors guilty of contempt of the tribunal by reason of their wilful and deliberately defiant non-compliance.
“I can draw no other conclusion than that the omission was deliberate and voluntary,” Quigley said.
In written submissions to the tribunal, the developers contended “an undisclosed basement” on the land was to blame for the inaction.
The pair were planning a 12-storey apartment tower for the Carlton site when it was purchased for $4.76 million in 2015.
“It is [clearly more] convenient to remove the remnant building fabric including foundations at the time of redevelopment,” Quigley said.
“That work requires expenditure, and in the meantime to facilitate the interim restoration of the site is not persuasive to the tribunal at all.”
Planning minister Richard Wynne said the developers remained liable for all costs of the clean-up and construction of the park.
“These cowboy developers have shown complete contempt for the planning process.
“This ruling sends a clear message these developers can’t and won’t get away with unlawful and blatant disregard for our city’s heritage.
“We’ll be continuing to pursue them until they take responsibility and make good on their agreement to turn the site into a temporary park,” Wynne said.
The penalty for contempt of court will be decided at a future hearing.
The City of Melbourne will now seek to recover the full legal costs from the owners in light of their failure to comply with the orders.