Grand wait over

AFTER years of delays the Grand Central building—part owned by lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi—has been heritage listed by Perth council.

Commissioners ended the three-year saga by approving the listing at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

City of Perth heritage experts have wanted to list the Wellington Street building for years, saying it’s historically significant having been an alcohol-free “coffee palace” during the gold rush.

But Ms Scaffidi’s husband, Joe, wasn’t keen on the listing, saying there wasn’t much of the original building left intact and he had plans to redevelop.

In September 2016 city staff told councillors it should be heritage protected, but three of Ms Scaffidi’s allies on the planning committee—Judy McEvoy, Jim Adamos and Keith Yong—voted to defer the listing.

Earlier in the year, then-acting CEO Martin Mileham had also stopped it going to council, saying more work needed to be done on the report.

• The Grand Central Coffee Palace, pictured in the Sunday Times December 23 1906 edition

In response, city director Annaliese Battista sent Mr Mileham an email saying she was “concerned” that attempts to list the building kept getting delayed.

For 17 months her department was trying to put a recommendation to the council to have it protected.

She wrote in that email, uncovered by the Sunday Times, that the long delays “perpetuates the speculation that this property is being afforded special attention”. She said “any further work would continue to unreasonably delay the report”.

Eventually the Grand Central listing did come before council in November 2016 and they voted to approve it.

It should have been listed shortly afterwards: normally the owner has 21 days to make a submission for or against, then it would go back to council for rubber-stamping. For some reason, that didn’t happen.

A report issued this week to commissioners, standing in for suspended councillors, said “due to an oversight, this has not been progressed.”

The Grand Central has also had an extraordinary three heritage assessments; most buildings get one. At Tuesday night’s meeting commissioner Andrew Hammond said: “I think the matter has gone on for some time, and I’d be confident now that processes and systems are in place so we don’t get this kind of slippage in the future”.

by DAVID BELL

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