Melbourne’s Palace Theatre Being Demolished Without Permit

Several construction workers are currently demolishing and ripping out the inside of Melbourne’s Palace Theatre, despite the fact that the local council has not yet handed down a decision on the building’s heritage protection.

The Age reports a construction worker has told the publication that the interior was being removed and the site was going to be turned into apartments. Jinshan Investments owns the property and has applied to demolish the building.

City of Melbourne councillor Rohan Leppert told The Age the work was “sheer vandalism”. “There is no permit to demolish the building, and the owner knows that the Council and Government considers the interiors to be of significant heritage value,” Cr Leppert said.

According to comments and photos posted on Facebook by Save The Palace Theatre activist group, “demolition workers have been found on site at the Palace Theatre in Bourke Street stripping out all of the interiors.” They say the workers are refusing to show them any kind of demolition permit and that law enforcement is on its way.

Further information and photos on the Melbourne Heritage Action Facebook page says the venue’s original doors from 1923, plasterwork circa 1916 and tiles from 1912 have been found smashed to bits in a skip out the back of the Palace Theatre.

Earlier this year Heritage Victoria decided not to acknowledge the building’s importance on a state level, but they did acknowledge the Palace Theatre’s local significance, leaving the onus for heritage protection on Melbourne City Council. That decision has not yet been officially made.

UPDATE 20/11/14 3.38pm: According to a comment made by Melbourne Heritage Action on their Facebook page, police have informed them that a “permit might not be needed” and the matter is a council planning one, not a criminal one, as “no structural demolition” has yet occurred. “Building claim they are ‘checking sprinklier systems’ …apparently by tearing down the entire plasterwork and cornices of the theatre,” they add.

UPDATE 20/11/14 3.41pm: Save The Palace have announced a gathering at the theatre at 6pm this evening. “Make some noise! These cultural vandals need to be stopped and the decision makers must do something,” they announced via Twitter.

UPDATE 20/11/14 8.12pm: City Of Melbourne say they’re pursuing an “interim heritage protection” for the site and that they are “investigating” todays’ events.

UPDATE 20/11/14 9.12pm: According to reports, tonight’s protests outside The Palace Theatre got ugly, even resulting in some violence.

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