A frustrated property developer has taken out a full-page newspaper ad to lobby for destruction of the heritage-listed building causing a roadblock to a luxury Christchurch hotel.
Lee Pee Ltd, a company owned by Hong Kong lawyer Gerard McCoy and his wife Sze Siu Wai McCoy, took out the advertisement in The Press outlining the issues around building a luxury eight-storey, 150-room hotel on the site of the earthquake-damaged Worcester Chambers.
The ad claims the recently restored heritage building will remain a “damp, suppurating and empty mausoleum” unless another historic “eyesore” next door is demolished.
It described the adjoining Harley Chambers as a “tottering dowager countess in her dotage” and likened the council’s planning process to Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch.
Lee Pee has sought consent from the Christchurch City Council to demolish the former medical rooms on Cambridge Terrace.
Both the Harley Chambers and Worcester Chambers buildings have a category two listing with Heritage New (HNZ), which did not oppose the demolitions provided the facade and front 6.5m of Worcester Chambers were retained, and innovative heating systems in Harley Chambers were recorded.
An HNZ spokesperson said Harley Chambers was too “broken” to save, and difficult to use for other purposes because of the large number of concrete pillars.
However, Ross Gray, acting chair of the Civic Trust and deputy chair of Historic Places Canterbury, told Stuff.co.nz retention of Harley Chambers was “perfectly possible”.
Mr Gray argued the buildings were at the heart of a sensitive heritage precinct and any further loss of heritage buildings in the area was unthinkable.
“The developer’s extravagant, feverish and, in places, misleading full-page newspaper advertisement should be seen for what it is, an attempt to bulldoze opponents of the project out of the way and to publicly shame them,” he said.
The council received 42 submissions on the demolition application – 23 against, two neutral and 17 in support. In response to criticism of the planning process, its head of resource consents, John Higgins, said there was “little scope to deviate from that process as it is heavily prescribed”.
The Lee Pee newspaper advertisement said investors were “completely disillusioned” by the planning process, which could end up in court and take years to resolve.