New bids to save Cranmer Courts

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 08/10/2012
Cranmer Courts demolition
CARYS MONTEATH/Fairfax NZ
THE END: Cranmer Courts comes down.

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A Christchurch City councillor is moving to stop demolition of the historic Cranmer Courts.

In addition, a heritage group is urging Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) to halt the demolition.

Cr Helen Broughton has lodged a notice of motion asking the council to "urgently request" that Cera place a month's moratorium on the demolition, which started on Thursday.

Deconstruction of the building was being rushed through in a "fairly offensive way", she said.

"It's an incredibly important building and I'm not clear who has pushed the button on this, whether it's the Cranmer Courts body corporate or Cera," she said.

Broughton said she was "completely shocked" to learn a demolition contract had been signed on Wednesday, the day after attendees of a heritage meeting voted unanimously for councillors to seek an extraordinary meeting to delay the work. "I think we need to get everyone back around the table because Cranmer Courts is such an important heritage building."

The notice of motion would be considered by councillors on Thursday.

Despite several attempts to save the category 1 heritage building, demolition started last week, attracting small groups of protesters over the past five days.

Historic Places Canterbury vice-chairman Ross Gray said yesterday protesters had been "heartened by the positive response" from passers-by.

"Distressing and brutal as the demolition so far has been, with no attempt to retrieve and conserve valuable building materials, only a small proportion of the building has gone. The great majority of it remains, providing a highly viable basis for a restoration or redevelopment," he said.

In the late 1980s the building had also been at "the mercy of heavy machinery" and was saved at the "11th hour", Gray said. Last week Cera chief executive Roger Sutton said he was "very sad" to see demolition begin on the structure but the Government could not force an owner to fix their property.

"The owners have tried everything to save or sell their building and that hasn't worked out," Sutton said.

Cera issued the Cranmer Courts body corporate a section 38 dangerous-building notice on April 19. Demolition started in June but was stopped while discussions to save it were held.

An Australian had offered to buy the site and restore the facade. The sale was conditional on the buyer doing due diligence. On September 28, the body corporate received news the offer had been withdrawn.

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