Developers who illegally demolish heritage buildings in Victoria may be prevented from constructing new development on the land for up to ten years under new legislation designed to crack down on illegal destruction of heritage buildings in that state.

Introduced into Parliament earlier this week, the Planning and Environment Amendment Bill 2021 will amend planning legislation to allow the prevention of new development on land where illegal demolition of heritage buildings has occurred.

Under the legislation, the Governor in Council will be able to issue orders which prevent the use or development of land for up to ten years in cases where the owner has been found guilty of illegal demolition under section 126 of the Act.

Where this happens, developers will be unable to profit from illegal demolition as they will not be able to build on the land on which the demolition has occurred.

Any order made under this legislation will run with the land and will continue to apply even if the land is sold to another party.

The new law will also allow planning schemes to prohibit the development of land on which a heritage building has been unlawfully demolished or allowed to fall into disrepair.

Where this happens, the Bill will enable planning schemes to restrict the granting of permits to develop the land unless the development involves certain purposes.

These could include repairing or reconstructing the building in question or constructing community facilities such as parks.

The new legislation follows outrage after the 158-year-old Corkman Irish Pub was illegally demolished by developer Raman Shaqiri in 2016.

Whilst the Victorian Government and the Melbourne City Council sought an order to compel the developer to rebuild the hotel, a deal was struck between the government and the developer to turn the site into a temporary park in 2019 after advice that the order was not legally sound.

The developers now have until mid-2022 to submit a new planning application which satisfies the planning minister and the council.

The laws also follow earlier reforms in 2017 which make it an office for builders or others who manage building work to knowingly carry any work where either no permit has been granted or the work in question contravenes the Building Act, building regulations or conditions in the permit.

In his Second Reading speech, Wynn said some developers had made a business model out of illegal demolition.

“Victorians were rightly outraged by the illegal demolition of the Corkman Hotel in 2016,” Wynn said.

“For too long many developers have simply factored fines into the cost of doing business, as the current enforcement system in the Planning and Environment Act can inadvertently incentivise people to unlawfully demolish buildings of local heritage significance without a planning permit.”  “While it is an offence under the Act to demolish a heritage building without a planning permit, the current maximum penalty of $198,264 is often significantly less than the potential economic value of developing the land. Even with a successful prosecution with a maximum penalty, a planning permit application can still be made to develop the land.

“The measures in this Bill are aimed at stopping this from happening. Developers will no longer benefit or profit from unlawfully demolishing heritage buildings.”