Calling for interest

FOR SALE: The TSB Bank Building on Devon St in New Plymouth.
FOR SALE: The TSB Bank Building on Devon St in New Plymouth.

Property developers in New Plymouth say the TSB Bank was washing its hands of its responsibility to ensure its historic building was preserved.

The bank has advertised for expressions of interest in its buildings on Devon St West, which had a capital value of $1,370,000, according to Quotable Value records.

New Plymouth property developers Jeremy Thomson and Harvey Dunlop, who had renovated buildings in New Plymouth including the White Hart Hotel, said the bank had a "community obligation" to find a solution to preserve the building.

"By selling it they are absolving all responsibility toward it. They've washed their hands of it."

But TSB deputy chief executive Charles Duke rejected that.

"At this stage we are calling for expressions of interest. That's the status at the moment. We haven't had a look at the responses as yet."

Mr Thomson said it was essential the building was retained.

"It's a very striking piece of the architectural heritage of New Plymouth and the TSB as an institution is unique today in New Zealand. That building needs to be preserved."

The White Hart was repaired to 100 per cent of the New Building Standards. A competent engineer would be able to get the bank building up to standard, Mr Thomson said.

The main challenge would be to come up with a new use for it and strong tenants, he said.

Mr Dunlop said there was a great sense of achievement in being able to add something to community properties.

"It would be no different for the TSB if they can find a solution for it."

TSB business services manager Phil Ramsdale said the bank was looking to lease some space upstairs in the new part of the building to house its museum.

"But it comes down to people's plans and what they want to do with it."

The 83-year-old building had undergone an engineer's seismic assessment and had been declared an earthquake risk.

The biggest issue was the building's foundation, which was a bit wet, because it was close to a stream, he said.

The TSB building had a Category two rating from the Historic Places Trust and was Category A in the New Plymouth District Council's district plan.

According to the plan all category A buildings were protected.

Work that was not in character would require resource consent, as would demolition.

Historic Places Trust general manager central region Ann Neill said in most cases it was feasible to bring heritage buildings to more than 67 per cent of the New Building Standard.

"Many building owners in Wellington were taking buildings to above 80 per cent."

"We had hoped there would be a way for the TSB to retain a connection to the site. We hoped they might find a way to reuse it. But we look forward to working with anyone who is interested in reusing the building."

Taranaki Daily News