As a result of the damages inflicted onto Melbourne’s Palace Theatre since its last inspection, an independent heritage consultant has found it is no longer worth saving the building.
Independent heritage consultant Graeme Butler, reports Fairfax, initially recommended in October that the former live-music venue be granted local heritage protection, but has reversed his decision today in light of the recent demolition of the building’s interior.
“Inspection of the theatre December 2014 has revealed that most of the original plaster ornamentation, glazed stair tiling and period joinery inspected in October have been removed from the building,” he said.
“These sweeping internal changes have necessitated this review of the original findings.” These findings were published in a report by Melbourne City Council released this morning, delivering, perhaps, a fatal blow to the spirits of those who have been campaigning for months to save the theatre.
Last month it was discovered that demolition had begun on the interior of the Palace Theatre before the city had decided on the venue’s heritage protection status. Protests quickly got underway outside the venue, even turning violent, and The City of Melbourne announced they would seek an “interim heritage protection” for the site. That has not eventuated.
Activist group Save The Palace Theatre have criticised the Council’s report. “To change a report and recommendations and make it only available to the public on the day of the council vote is outrageous,” they wrote in a statement on their website. “To not consider the remaining relevance of the building and it’s significance both architecturally, aesthetically and culturally is a crime.”
According to Fairfax, Melbourne city Councillors have been instructed to drop the bid for emergency interior protection of the Palace and wait until the application to demolish the Palace Theatre is considered next week before they making any other decisions on the building’s local significance.
Greens councillor Rohan Leppert also said the reversal of Graeme Butler’s decision was “devastating news”, adding that it now appears that the owner, Jinshan Investments’ “act of vandalism” would be rewarded. “The contempt that the big end of town has for Melbourne’s cultural heritage shows once again how deficient our planning rules are.”