Demolition plan for Public Trust building

IN THE BALANCE: The heritage-listed Public Trust Office building on Oxford Tce.
IN THE BALANCE: The heritage-listed Public Trust Office building on Oxford Tce.

High-profile Christchurch businessman Ben Gough has applied to demolish the central city's heritage-listed art deco Public Trust Office building.

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) says the building should be saved, and a heritage advocate is "sickened" by the prospect of demolition.

Tailorspace Investments, owned by Gough, has applied to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) for a section 38 notice that would allow the demolition of the building, at 152-156 Oxford Tce.

Designed by renowned architect Cecil Wood, the 1922-1925 building is a Group 3 protected heritage site in the Christchurch City Plan and a NZHPT Category 2 historic place.

Earthquake-strengthening was carried out in 2009, with the work including the incorporation of new shear walls to the full height of the building.

Ben Gough is controlling shareholder and deputy chairman of Gough Holdings, one of the city's biggest family-owned companies. His relative, Antony Gough, is behind a $140 million Oxford Tce development.

Cera confirmed Tailorspace had applied for a section 38 notice and that a decision was "imminent". The trust is legally powerless to prevent demolition if a section 38 notice is issued. Its archaeological consent is only required for pre-1900 buildings.

"The number of heritage buildings remaining in the central city has halved and this is a stand-alone survivor on its block," trust southern general manager Rob Hall said.

Ben Gough and Tailorspace Investments management did not respond to calls yesterday. A company representative said it was "going through a PR company" and would not be able to respond until Monday.

Before the earthquakes, the Public Trust building housed Young Hunter, Layburn Hodgins, Adderley Head, Tailorspace Investments, Wagamama and Tru bar.

A Cera spokeswoman said section 38 of the CER Act was not just about treating dangerous buildings, but "enabling the recovery".

Dr Anna Crighton, president of Historic Places Aotearoa, called on Cera to refuse the application.

"I'm fed up with owners of heritage buildings using section 38 as an excuse to get rid of our heritage . . . because it suits their programme," Crighton said. "They shouldn't own heritage buildings in the first place if they are not prepared to look after them."

The application was filed with Cera on November 14.

As of December, 47 per cent of heritage-listed buildings in Christchurch had been lost as a result of the earthquakes.

The Press