I left Fremantle Council with hope last night, hope that Councillors finally have got the message and that they start taking community concerns serious and don’t shrug them off as irrelevant and done by anti-development groups. For the first time in a long time I had the feeling that Councillors and officers had actually read our submissions and listened to us, because they went out of their way to address them and explain why they approved the five-storey Pakenham Street short-term accommodation development, and at the end they had convinced me personally and I accepted their reasons, although I had addressed committee against allowing a fifth storey in the west end.
Director Phil St John, Heritage Coordinator Alana Kelsall, Mayor Brad Pettitt, Deputy Mayor Josh Wilson, and others all stressed that the five-storey building was a better and substantial heritage outcome that will retain and preserve more of the heritage volume. The floor alignment was the reason for the increased general height, Kelsall explained, but it was a better outcome this way as the interior heritage characteristics were now more legible. It creates a larger internal space that shows heritage aspects better. It is about harmonisation and synchronisation.
Brad Pettitt stressed Council were not changing height restrictions in the West End but that the better heritage outcome justified the extra height. He said it was a far better building than the initial plans and that it had fantastic elements. “This has been a very challenging one” he said about the development proposal.
Cr Josh Wilson said this was not a compromise on height but a substantial heritage improvement, as there initially was no alignment with the existing building.
Councilor Rachel Pemberton tried to get an amendment through that would force further setback of the top level, but since that was already in the Design Advisory Committee’s advise the majority voted against adding the amendment to the approval. Cr Bill Massie did not believe the plans have design excellence and that the building would be overwhelming.
At the end it was Director Phil St John’s explanations that swayed me, and I am now comfortable that this will be a good outcome for the development of a heritage building in that location.
What impressed me most though last night was the genuine attempt at explaining to the public how the decision was reached and what the reasons for it are. That showed respect for the community and it was nice for a change to leave Council not feeling taken for granted.
Fremantle‘s Planning Services Committee will tonight debate changes to the DESIGN ADVISORY COMMITTEE, as requested by the Special Electors Meeting.
The DAC was established in February 2010 as an expert panel of architects and urban planners to advise Council on new development proposals, but its reporting has been unsatisfactory, and renowned architect Linley Lutton resigned from the committee in December last year because of issues he had with the committee and COF staff.
One of the changes recommended is to create a pool of experts, because in the past committee members were not always available, which let to the DAC not having a quorum at all meetings.
Another, well overdue, recommendation is that the full DAC report will be attached to public reports and reports to Council and committees. Up till now we more or less received officers’ interpretations of what the DAC had said and recommended and that was far too ambiguous, as the case with the Queensgate development showed, where councillors had to guess if the DAC had given the go ahead for Council to consider discretionary additional height.
It is quite remarkable that the officer states that “It is not practical for all DAC members to sign off the report” Why not? Modern technology, such as email, dropbox, etc. can be used to share a draft report that all members can make changes to, from which a final report will then be written. If volunteer community groups can do this with their with submissions to council, surely highly paid professionals can do the same. We know that all DAC members sign off at other councils, such as Victoria Park, so why is it an issue in Fremantle?
The most important thing though is to make sure that the DAC can work absolutely independently and without undue influence from officers and elected members. How that can be guaranteed though I don’t know.
Sight seeing can be tiring sometimes, so these tourists found a nice shady spot to rest on the lovely veranda of the Fremantle Esplanade Hotel yesterday.
The new owners of the hotel are making good changes, with a new exterior coat of paint, new artworks in the foyer, the former corner bar will be re-opened and an all new alfresco area is being created on the old taxi stand. It will be good to have another alfresco cafe on the Esplanade just opposite the popular Carriage Cafe.
No matter how much I disagree with the location of the Fremantle Youth Plaza Skate Park on the Esplanade Reserve, instead of adjacent to it, I am looking forward to seeing it in action as it looks very impressive. Although I have never been a skater or a surfer, I can see myself spending a few hours a week there, once it has opened in mid April, to watch what is going on and get some good action shots.
The proposed development of the old Carriage Cafe next to the Youth Plaza is also a good thing, so I hope Council will rapidly approve that, and that full landscaping of the Esplanade will be done as a priority, so it can be returned to the community in good shape again.
I shot these three images through the fence, so my angles were restricted.
P.S. this is my 4000th blog post since I started three and a half years ago.
The Fremantle Planning and Services Committee will on Wednesday consider the application for a five-storey development on the corner of Pakenham and Short streets. The former John Lysaght warehouse building is of “considerable heritage significance” according to the City’s heritage assessment, and it is within the West End Heritage Conservation Area, which only allows for buildings with a maximum four-storey height.
The developers want to build 73 units/122 bedrooms, 2 small retail outlets, a gym and a café, plus a conference room with roof terrace.
The officers state that the “proposed height variation ultimately facilitates conservation of the warehouse buildings, as it assists with the preservation, adoption and retention of several key elements of the existing building which are integral to the sites cultural heritage significance”
While the latest design is an improvement to the original one, it is still the fifth storey sticking up from above the heritage façade.
This is one of those issues where Fremantle Council needs to show leadership because it is becoming annoying that developers want more than is allowed, and when people like I protest against it, we are labelled as anti development. I am against a five-storey development in the heritage area, not against a four-storey building that is appropriate for the West End!
Tough decision making and good leadership should not only be about sometimes making unpopular decisions and upsetting the community, but also about being able to say no to the demands of developers and their threats that unless you give us what we want we won’t develop in Fremantle.
The track record of Fremantle council is not great when it comes to giving developers the cold shoulder and doing the right thing by the community. The very bland and boring Point Street hotel development will be living proof of that for many years to come.
When the consultants of the Woolstores shopping centre site told council they would not go ahead unless more height was granted, a frightened Council quickly moved to approve additional height in PSA 49 to appease the developers, who have done nothing since to indicate they actually want to start building a huge block of residential apartments there.
There is now the constant demand for more height by developers, who promise to build more exiting buildings if they can add a storey or two or three. Sadly Fremantle Council is so paranoid that progress will bypass Freo, that they give in easily and ignore their own rules and policies.
This Wednesday is the real test of leadership and making tough decisions, and it should only go one way. The five-storey short-term accommodation development in Pakenham Street needs to be refused and the four-storey height limit for the West End Conservation Area needs to be adhered to. The Freo community will accept nothing else.
We believed the assurances of our leaders who promised the West End would not be affected by out of scale development, so stick to your word Elected Members. Your integrity is at stake here.
I love watching the coming and going at Rottnest Express on Victoria Quay in the Fremantle harbour. Locals bring what appears to be half of their household, nervous overseas tourists, kids excited with anticipation, bikes and luggage everywhere, and every language from around the planet spoken. Often a few dolphins pop up to have a look and smile about the spectacle.
All this month of March the ferry tickets are only half price so take advantage off it and book early on-line.
Here some photos I took this morning.
Dear Premier Colin Barnett,
The City of Fremantle needs and deserves more and better support from our State Government, because at present your are leaving our major development at Kings Square in limbo by not making an announcement about the move of the Department of Housing here, which Minister Troy Buswell promised before the state election.
Fremantle’s CBD needs urgent revitalisation to support our struggling retailers and economy. We need more people working and living in our inner city and that means we need serious development. I am sure, Premier, that you are aware of the quite massive development plans for Kings Square, but they can only progress when major tenants have signed up. That means you can give Fremantle real support by decentralising government services and relocating them to Fremantle, and help our State’s second city to grow and prosper. Fremantle needs your help, Premier, and it needs it now!
It is not acceptable to put all our State’s eggs in the one-Perth- basket, Fremantle also needs to grow and get government support.
It would also be good for Fremantle if the Fremantle Ports Victoria Quay development could be delayed by some years, so it is not in straight competition with inner city development around Kings Square.
Please come visit Freo and do a tour of all the planned development here and get a feeling of Freo’s bigger picture and great future, Premier, and don’t leave Freo in limbo any longer.
On Wednesday a very important item is on the agenda of the Fremantle Strategic Planning and Services Committee. It will be a test on how serious Council is about protecting our City’s heritage and how sincere Elected Members were during the Planning Scheme Amendment 49 debate, when they told the community higher rise development would not affect heritage areas in our inner city.
The development proposal is for a five-storey short-term accommodation building on the corner of Pakenham Street and Short Street, that is within the West End Heritage Conservation Area that has a maximum height of four storeys. If Council allows an additional storey above the maximum level for the heritage precinct, it will open the flood gates and there will be no stopping of higher and higher buildings in the historic west of Fremantle, because developers will be pushing for it and demanding it because a precedent will have been set. We can not allow that to happen and the five-storey proposal needs to be rejected by Council and pulled back to four storeys only. You gave us your word Mayor and Councillors!
The W.A. State Government Design Advisory Panel has given approval for the development of the Queensgate building and Spicer site. These are two of the major projects of the Fremantle Kings Square development, that will also see renovations and a facelift of the former Myer building, and the demolition of the present civic centre and the construction of a modern new one.
While this is good news, the work on the Myer building has been pushed back now to the first quarter of next year and will not, as announced last year, start mid this year, so that is another half year delay that will also delay the Queensgate and civic centre buildings.
It is my understanding that Sirona Capital still has not signed up a major ‘anchor’ tenant for the Myer building and until this happens construction will not commence. The Department of Housing has not been forthcoming in announcing if they will still move to Fremantle and if that move will be to the Myer site or elsewhere. There is a lot of speculation that Housing might sign up for the Victoria Quay development by Fremantle Ports.
It is important to understand the timeline here to see what this means for the overall development of Kings Square. Once Myer has been completed CoF staff will relocate there from the Queensgate building, that would then be demolished and the new building erected. When the new Queensgate building is ready, CoF staff will vacate the civic building at the Town Hall and move to Queensgate, the civic centre will then be flattened and a new building erected on the triangle in front of Myer. In essence, nothing much will happen until the former Myer site is finished. Only the Spicer site development can commence independent from that.
It is very disappointing that the State Government does not understand that Fremantle needs a bit of support here. Troy Buswell announced Housing would move to Fremantle, but since then nothing much has happened and that is leaving Freo’s extremely important Kings Square development in limbo. Surely Premier Colin Barnett and his cabinet can make a decision soon on this and announce Housing will be moving to the Myer building, which would be a great step forward for our city.
My request for demographic statistics for the City of Fremantle community consultation workshops has resulted in the four images below; two on the Youth Plaza and two on the Kings Square Urban Design Strategy. No stats are available from the Arthur Head workshops and also none from all the Visioning 2029 community meetings. I believe as a matter of course the City should record the demographics of future community workshops, so that the assumption that only narrow focus groups and people attend them can be checked against facts.