City Of Melbourne Seeking “Interim” Protection For Palace Theatre

Protests outside Melbourne’s Palace Theatre are currently underway after it was discovered today that the venue was being torn apart on the inside by construction workers, before the council handed down its decision on the site’s heritage protection. The City of Melbourne have since released a statement saying they are investigating the events and are seeking an “interim heritage protection” for the site.

In a brief statement on their website, The City Of Melbourne said Planning Enforcement and Building Surveying officers are “investigating the removal of some of the Palace Theatre’s interior fabric” but “have not been able to access the interior of the building at this stage”.

“However it would appear some sections of plaster and some internal doors have been removed,” they add. “The City of Melbourne is pursuing interim heritage protection for the interior of the Palace Theatre.”

Today it was reported that several construction workers were found demolishing and ripping out the inside of the theatre including, according to the Melbourne Heritage Action group, the venue’s original doors from 1923, plasterwork circa 1916 and tiles from 1912 which were found “smashed to bits in a skip out the back of the Palace Theatre”.

Palace Theatre campaigners have been rallying at the site from 6pm this evening. “It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” Save the Palace Theatre spokeswoman Rebecca Leslie told The Age. “It’s sneaky on the developer’s behalf, particularly when a heritage review is being conducted by the City of Melbourne.”

“In the last two weeks the state government has actually recommended this building be upgraded to a B [heritage] listing – all the authorities are finally starting to recognise it.” It is unclear at this stage whether the construction work taking place was illegal.

Unconfirmed reports on social media say tonight’s protest was gatecrashed and some people were attacked and injured. According to a tweet from The Music Melbourne, “Police are reporting that one #SaveThePalace protester was bitten & another had their phone smashed by protest gatecrashers.”

Earlier today Melbourne Heritage Action commented that workers informed them they were simply “checking” the site’s sprinkler systems. Greens councillor Rohan Leppert said when council staff attempted to visit the property this afternoon workers had already locked up, following a visit from police.

UPDATE 20/11/14 8.43PM: According to reports, tonight’s protests outside The Palace Theatre did get ugly, even resulting in violence as, reports, an agitated passer-by jumped in support of the developers, claiming it was an issue of “public housing” and grabbed the speaker by the shirt.

Three more men reportedly joined the initial attacker and a brawl broke out. Police arrived and allegedly hand-cuffed the instigator but are calling on witnesses for others involved. See images from the protest in the tweets below.

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