Man convicted and fined $20,000 plus costs for demolishing circa-1870s house near Bendigo hospital

The circa-1870s weatherboard house on Arnold Street, which was demolished by its owner without a planning permit.
The circa-1870s weatherboard house on Arnold Street, which was demolished by its owner without a planning permit.

A MAN who demolished a circa-1870s weatherboard house near the Bendigo hospital in violation of a council heritage overlay has been convicted and fined $20,000 plus court costs.

The Arnold Street house was considered one of the oldest houses in the historic Drought Street precinct, which was placed under a heritage overlay due to its examples of “Victorian, Edwardian and inter-war housing”.

Andrew Hipwell, of Bendigo, pleaded guilty in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on Monday to two counts of breaching the planning and environment act.

The court heard Hipwell applied for a planning permit from the City of Greater Bendigo in September 2015 with the intention of demolishing the building, but it was refused.

He lodged a fresh application in July last year, which was also refused.

Council inspectors visited the site in March this year and noticed significant demolition work had begun on the house.

The chimney had been demolished and the red bricks had been taken off the site. The foundation of the house appeared unstable and the floor stumping had been removed, leaving large holes.

A section of wall was also hanging precariously.

The site where the house used to be, now a vacant lot. Picture: NONI HYETT

The site where the house used to be, now a vacant lot. Picture: NONI HYETT

Inspectors visited again in May and found further work had been carried out. A portion of the eastern wall was missing and the rear wall was not supported by the floor structure.

Council solicitor Matt Barkla said the remaining walls had “no structural value” and they were effectively swinging away from the dwelling.

“As a consequence, all that remained in supporting this dwelling was the power cable,” he said.

The City of Greater Bendigo placed an emergency order on the building due to fears over its structural integrity.

The court heard Hipwell, who works in the construction industry, bought the property for $153,000 in 2009 with the intention of making renovations.

He claimed that given the “grave” condition of the building and its considerable age, it would have been difficult to make any renovations without a permit to demolish parts of the house.

The court was told the property was valued at $240,000, but would have been worth up to $70,000 more without the dwelling.

Mr Barkla said Hipwell had a “flagrant disregard” for council planning controls.

Magistrate Michael King agreed, and said developers were increasingly ignoring heritage overlays and transferring the fines and court costs onto the overall value of the property.

“The court has to be mindful that this is becoming increasingly a problem, with people buying heritage properties and ignoring the building requirements, heritage requirements, and are just demolishing,” he said.

“(They are) incorporating the penalties as part of the cost of development.

“Heritage has its value aesthetically.”

Hipwell was convicted and fined $20,000, and ordered to pay $6731 in court costs.