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Queensland call to cut church building rights

Churches in Queensland could be required to observe planning laws when proposing to alter or demolish their heritage-listed buildings.

The Queensland Heritage Council will apply to the State Government to amend the Heritage Act to stop churches escaping scrutiny on their property developments.

Under the current laws, churches do not need to obtain development approval from the council. They need only give 30 days' notice of the changes and declare the development to be genuinely required for liturgical purposes. Other individuals and organisations failing to obtain approval to alter or demolish a heritage-listed property face a maximum fine of more than $1 million.

Queensland Heritage Council chairman Professor John Brannock said yesterday churches should not be allowed to abuse development controls by claiming an exemption from scrutiny on liturgical grounds.

Professor Brannock said churches could theoretically use the exemption to demolish a heritage-listed building and replace it with a carpark by simply saying that the development was needed for religious purposes, whether it was a church service or a commercial operation.

In 2001, the Catholic Church used the liturgical exemption to demolish Hesketh House, a historic Brisbane building next to St Stephens Cathedral. The building was demolished to provide more space for services including large-scale funerals and weddings and Easter liturgies.

The Courier-Mail

Queensland Heritage Council | Search Heritage Register (enter theme 'worshipping')
Church in Tasmania facing fine over monument damage (7/2/03)
Mercy Sisters open up Sacred Spaces (Catholic Weekly 4/8/02)

18 Feb 2003