A property developer has been fined $200,000 over the illegal demolition of a heritage building in Sydney’s inner west.
In its latest judgement, the New South Wales Land and Environment Court fined property developer Bill Gertos $150,000 and his company Geitonia $50,000 over the illegal demolition of a heritage row of shopfronts on Parramatta Road next to the Annandale Hotel.
Leichhardt Council had approved a redevelopment of the building on the condition its facade was preserved, but Gertos and his development company Geitonia disregarded the order.
The builder who performed the demolition was also fined $50,000.
The developer had been facing a maximum fine of $1.1 million.
In his judgement, Justice Peter Biscoe said Gertos was more culpable than other defendants and that it was important to send a message that such behaviour was not tolerated.
“The sentence needs to operate as a powerful factor in preventing the commission of similar crimes by persons who might be tempted to do so,” Gertos said.
“The planning system would be ineffective if developments were allowed to continue without, or in contravention of, development consents.”
Mayor of Leichhardt Councillor Rochelle Porteous said the case represented a landmark decision as the biggest fine had been given to an individual director of the development company.
Porteous said the Council was responsible for a large number of properties along Parramatta Road which have beautiful and unique facades, and wanted to send a strong message that all demolition work must take place within the confines of planning controls.
As a result of the conduct, the Council says Gertos no longer had approval to develop the site at all.
“Council takes its responsibilities as the guardian of heritage controls seriously. We must protect the area’s irreplaceable buildings, and this victory and judgement shows that we can, and will, take strong action to do so,” Porteous said.
Outside court, Solicitor for Gertos James Jordan claimed the façade had been dangerous and needed to be knocked down.
According to a report on ABC, Gertos – who had not been in court as a result of a prior arrangement – had indeed made two attempts to amend the development application.
However, Prosecutor David Buchanan previously argued the demolition with premeditated, deliberate and performed with the full knowledge it was in breach of the order.