Tough decision

The redevelopment of the historic Callington Hotel will be positive for the old mining town but it has come at the cost of some irreplaceable heritage.
The inside of the 160-year-old pub, which is listed as a local heritage place, has been gutted by its owner who needed council approval before beginning any work – particularly tearing down the original internal walls of the building.
The Mt Barker Council’s Development Assessment Panel will today decide whether to let the owner continue with the refurbishment while also grappling with the issue of imposing some sort of penalty.
Applying a financial penalty to landowners who deliberately undertake unauthorised works can have a limited effect and perhaps some responsibility should also rest with the builders who do the work on unapproved developments.
Surely it is not too onerous to require builders – particularly those undertaking work on heritage buildings – to be provided with copies of the approval documents by the owner before work can begin.
A well established ‘loophole’ used by some developers is to seek forgiveness from authorities rather than permission and simply factor in any subsequent fine as a development cost.
That loophole could be closed by making the builder also liable.
Whether the owner in this instance has ignorantly or purposely gutted the inside of the hotel – including its bar, kitchen, store and cool rooms – without council approval is unknown.
But Australian hotels are often culturally significant places and it seems bizarre that either owners, developers or builders would be unaware of the historic value of such buildings and the development constraints which generally apply.
Another reality being faced by the panel is that the work has been done.
The walls have come down and the egg cannot be unscrambled.
It is faced with the difficult proposition to allow the work to proceed to the point where Callington’s only hotel can re-open and  become a valuable focal point for the community.
Perhaps the best outcome for everyone – the townsfolk included – is to ensure the development proceeds but measures are put in place to prevent a repeat performance.