Anyone who has been following the proposed redevelopment of Launceston’s iconic eyesore, the derelict CH Smith building, will have had a stark reminder of why planning reform in Tasmania must be completed, and completed quickly.
For those that are not across this, in November, a future for the troubled CH Smith site seemed secured with a clever collaboration between developer Errol Stewart and Artas supported by the state government and local council.
The site has remained derelict for 20 years with the remaining fragments of the buildings slowly crumbling away.
In November, finally a development with real legs for the site was presented to the community which utilises the facade and other useable components of the ruin. The development was then approved by council and the Heritage Council to the delight of the community at large.
Then at the eleventh hour – literally the last day allowed – an appeal against the proposal was lodged with the Resource Management and Planning Appeals Tribunal by the Heritage Preservation Society of Tasmania.
Just to let you know, the very grand sounding “Heritage Preservation Society of Tasmania” appears to be nothing more than a handful of retired, or soon to be retired, Launceston people.
The appeal, according to The Examiner’s story on February 15, is over the Heritage Council’s decision to allow the demolition of the building.
The Examiner’s editorial of February 16 makes for interesting reading. According to The Examiner, the appeal “demands that the developers adhere to all previous permits imposed on the site by all previous developers”.
Interesting thinking as the site has been decaying over the last 20 years and clearly conditions applied to proposed developments 20 years ago would be impossible to follow now. Also, as The Examiner also pointed out, of what heritage value is rotting timber?
As a side note, to the best of my knowledge, every proposal for this site over the last 20 years has been appealed by the same group of people.
Look, don’t get me wrong, no doubt this group believe that they are doing the right thing. Which brings me back to my original point – we need the planning reforms to be finalised. Especially the ability of a small group such as this to stop a major development because they think they know better than everyone else (including Heritage Tasmania).
I also note that similar groups, right across the state, were the loudest detractors at the recent public discussions about planning reform – especially changes to the third party appeal provisions.
Here’s hoping that sense will prevail and that this development won’t be held up for too long. Here’s also hoping that this is the LAST TIME this can happen in our state. Bring on the new planning scheme and bring it on fast.
By Michael Bailey, TCCI CEO