The Environment Court has declined an application by Ashburton business Redmond Retail that would remove the heritage listing of the former Peter Cates Grain Store on West Street.
Redmonds owns the building, which lacks structural integrity and has been identified by the Ashburton District Council as earthquake prone. It wants to demolish the old building, saying the cost of making it tenantable is prohibitive and unrealistic.
The grain store is in two parts, with the front curved part valued for its history and links to the district’s early farming days.
Redmonds had asked council to change its district plan to remove the heritage listing but that was opposed by Heritage NZ and local history buffs.
The court, in a decision released on Tuesday, said the parties in opposition had a wealth of knowledge about the history of the building and its place within the economic history of Mid Canterbury. This was accompanied by a strong desire to preserve and protect the building, not only because of its values but also because it is one of a diminishing number of historic listings in Ashburton.
The oldest part of the building was constructed in September 1878 and it was used as a goods and grain store, with the ground floor converted to office space in 1965. It has been listed as a historic building since 1981.
Peter Cates sold the building to Redmonds in 2015. Reports would later say the cost of bringing the building up to code would be around $2.6 million.
Judge Melanie Harland said the fact that the heritage listing in the district plan covered the entire building had caused considerable disquiet to those deciding the matter, as the Heritage NZ’s listing was amended in 2018 to relate only to the original front of the building.
She said there were some reasonable uses for the rear of the building, but fewer for the front because significant changes would compromise the heritage values of the building interior.
decision will be a great disappointment to Redmond Retail, which faces significant costs to bring the building up to a standard where it is able to action the reasonable uses that we have found exist under the District Plan provisions. We hope that there will be a solution reached outside of this process that recognises this.
The judge said the award of costs against Redmonds was not appropriate but council and Heritage NZ had 15 days to apply for costs if they were to do so.