The Launceston Chamber has received many complaints and concerns from its members over the difficulty in redeveloping older heritage buildings within the Launceston Central Business Zone over the past 12 months.

As a result it was decided by the Chamber to undertake a case study to replicate some of the major issues developers and small ‘Mum and Dad’ investors experience when they look to upgrade buildings for inner city living – especially in unused second storey heritage buildings in the City Centre.

The Upper floors of 6 The Quadrant was used as the case study building. This is a building owned by Tony Seymour of Commercial Equity with 300 m2 of vacant upper storey space, that could be converted into three apartments. Bullock Consulting, a multi-disciplinary firm, provided project management, architectural, and building surveying pro-bono for the project.

Executive Officer, Maree Tetlow, of the Launceston Chamber of Commerce advised there were three major issues that arose during the case study “at the moment any residential use within the City is considered ‘discretionary’ use and therefore requires advertising and additional approval requirements through Launceston City Council.We have had discussions with Council about allowing residential use as ‘permitted’ to reduce the time and complexity of the planning process.”

The other major issue tackled by the Chamber Ms Tetlow advised was “any multiple residency over 200 m2 in total on an upper floor would require a passenger lift. This is problematic for some heritage listed buildings that may not have the space - plus it adds significant cost - a minimum of $45,000 for a domestic lift. This seems crazy to us when people choose their residences to suit their needs. You would expect people with mobility issues to choose ground floor housing or newer apartments with lifts. It is often very difficult for heritage listed buildings to retro-fit a lift into the building.

The final major issue we discovered was that any work done on the ground floor – such as work to the ceiling to ensure the floors above are fire proof- would also mean you then have to bring those tenancies up to the National Building Code standard and fit new ‘access friendly’ toilets at the expense of the landlord.”

The outcome of working through the inner city living case study proved that this particular case was not financially viable to be progressed. Based on a very conservative market value for the upper floors, the cost for redevelopment would be nearly a $1 Million, and the expected return after refurbishment would not be expected to exceed a $1 Million.

Ms Tetlow said that “there are successful examples of inner city residential developments around Launceston. However, this case would not be progressed due its particular configuration and the real-estate market values that prevail in the current soft market.”

Ms Tetlow advised there were four major recommendations from the case study: “firstly, the federal Government need to be more flexible with the National Building Code - especially for heritage listed buildings in regional centres like Launceston.

Secondly, we recommend that Launceston City Council change residential uses in the City from discretionary to permitted use. We also recommend the State Government and Local Government review and reduce the number of specialised consultancy reports required for developments generally. They are expensive and sometime you wonder how many technical reports are required for a smaller, straight forward development.

And finally, we will lobby the Launceston City Council to offer financial incentives to developers to sensitively restore our historical buildings for inner city living.”

Ms Tetlow concluded that” If these recommendations are implemented we would see greater certainty and reduced costs for small and larger developments in our City, and that in turn would see more investment, more people living in the City, and adding vitality back in the City Centre which we are agree needs to happen.”

The Chamber has been contacted by the Minister for Planning and Local Government, Peter Gutwein, regarding his intention to coordinate a ‘round table’ meeting with senior officers to find solutions around the State Government and Local Government issues that have been identified. For details of the full report click here.