A fine imposed on a developer for the unlawful demolition of a historic Paddington cottage, located in one of Brisbane’s most prestigious streets, has been increased from $20,000 to $100,000.
In a landmark decision, District Court Judge David Kent fined Natural Lifestyle Homes (NLH), an inner-city luxury home builder, after pleading guilty to two charges related to conducting development activities without proper permits.
The subject of the demolition was a Paddington cottage that dated back to 1888. It was believed to be the oldest residence on the revered Wilden Street in Paddington.
Earlier, the Brisbane City Council had levied a fine of $20,000 against NLH, a penalty which Judge Kent deemed “manifestly inadequate” to deter future violations of this nature. He emphasied the necessity of a financial cost that would effectively deter developers from viewing such offenses as a mere business expense.
The cottage at 41 Wilden Street was originally intended to be preserved and relocated to allow new construction work on the site. However, NLH proceeded to demolish the protected building without consulting the Council, building certifier, or the Planning and Environment Court.
Serious Consequences for Disregarding Heritage
The actions of NLH not only flouted the Council’s refusal of demolition but also overturned the protective measures in place for the 1888 cottage. This act of destruction resulted in the loss of a significant heritage asset, with only minimal artifacts such as an original door and portions of windows remaining.
Judge Kent noted that NLH’s actions enabled them to evade consulting structural engineers on the feasibility of relocating the cottage. This lack of due diligence and disregard for heritage considerations led to the irreversible destruction of the historic structure.
The judge said that the $100,000 fine better reflects the seriousness of NLH’s offense, particularly when compared to the project’s total cost, ranging from $2 million to $2.4 million. This substantial penalty sends a clear message to developers that preserving heritage and adhering to legal requirements are paramount.
NLH’s Background and Intentions
NLH, co-owned by Clifford William Keane and Mathew Ralph Carroll, was not seeking profit from this project, which was intended to serve as a new residence for Mr Keane and his wife, Jacinda. The Keane family purchased the cottage in October 2018 for $1.08 million and embarked on the construction of a new $2.4 million home.
Mr Keane, a carpenter with a degree in the built environment, and M. Carroll, a registered builder since 1998, had been involved in inner-city property development for many years.