A CONSTRUCTION company has been fined $15,000 for demolishing a 19th century building in Golden Square without a permit.
Marwood Construction said it “jumped the gun” in destroying the interior of one of three old miner’s cottages it was developing in MacDougalls Road.
The South Melbourne-based company applied for a demolition permit early last year but failed to wait for approval before carrying out the work in April 2012 that destroyed the inside of the building.
It argued the building was structurally unsound because a squatter was living in the house, and that it was liable for safety concerns of anyone entering the premises.
An engineer’s report, commissioned by the company, said a strong wind would have been able to blow the house down.
Prosecuting lawyer Marcus Heath, acting for the City of Greater Bendigo, said the company had not been granted approval from council and had defied rulings to maintain the building’s heritage-style facade.
The council said the charge of contravening a planning scheme was at the high end of the scale.
Mr Heath said unauthorised demolition of any dwelling “undermined the entire planning system” and could have resulted in a maximum penalty of up to $440,000 for breaching the planning and environment act.
The company was ordered to pay $15,000 in fines and $5000 for the council’s legal costs.
Magistrate Jennifer Tregent said the high penalties were necessary to act as a deterrent.
“There are hefty fines because corporations would otherwise be coming in and bulldozing a heritage site, knowing they would make up the costs and make a profit,” she said.
Ms Tregent said she believed Marwood Construction would restore the site to be consistent with historical neighbouring properties but that the company should have been aware of its requirements.
Construction on the site has been halted since April 2012, after the building was demolished.
A Marwood Construction spokesman yesterday said he couldn’t comment on the future of the development.
Council planning director Prue Mansfield said the building was within the guidelines of the council’s Neighbourhood Character Overlay.
Ms Mansfield said she was hopeful that the case would prove an effective reminder for builders to have all permits complete.