To those readers who don’t know the Fremantle/Cockburn area well, these photos are not of Beirut or Gaza or any other war zone, they are visual proof of how the Western Australian government disgracefully neglects our state’s heritage buildings.
The former South Fremantle Power Station at Coogee Beach has been unused and empty and allowed to rot away for many years. It is a clear example of demolition by neglect because concrete cancer, and salt and wind erosion are eating away the building rapidly.
The quite majestic building would make for a great performing arts and exhibition centre, a hotel, a convention centre, residential units, etc. and is a prime piece of real estate that should be sold and developed and restored to its former glory.
It never stops amazing me that governments can always find money for trivial monuments to celebrate the egos of politicians, but that there is no money to look after our historic buildings.
Who has to power to fine State Government over this neglect? No one I fear, so we have to put up with this eyesore that stands between major residential developments at South and Coogee beaches. It’s shameful!
Is Fremantle Notre Dame University the only university on the planet with its own beach? The UNDA Campus is only a minute-walk away from gorgeous Bathers Beach, so why would one not want to study there.
UNDA is in Fremantle’s stunning historic West End and occupies some of the sublime heritage buildings that they very sensitively adapted for educational use. There are great lecture theatres and libraries and a trillion cute little cafes dotted on the periphery of campus.
On Sunday August 17 Notre Dame will have their annual OPEN DAY that gives prospective students and their parents a chance to check out the UNDA facilities, meet academic staff and students, attend course info sessions and Campus tours. There will also be live music and free food on the day from 10 am to 3 pm.
I had my hopes up high,when I noticed the closing down sale signs, that the Fremantle Spicers site development of the Pine Shop and carpark on the corner of William Street and the Henderson Street mall would precede the Kings Square development, but alas that is not to be. The present business plan only allows it to go ahead as Stage C, Stage A being the development of the MYER and Queensgate buildings, and stage B the new Civic Centre.
So what will happen then with the pine shop for the next 3-4 years, I wonder. Will we have another CBD building empty and make the street with the neglected Warders Cottages look even more derelict?
Even the High Street mall looks desolate with the empty shops, so hopefully there will be fast progress all over for Freo.
Talking about neglect, good to hear the National Trust has leased the old George Hotel building in East Fremantle. I don’t know yet whom to.
It has been two and a half weeks today that the new recycle bin near the Whalers Tunnel at the steps to the historic Round House has been full, because the City of Fremantle has failed to empty it.
Thousands of tourists walk by there every week, but those in charge of rubbish collection keep forgetting to do this very basic job of emptying the bin west of the railway line regularly.
I often get request from local residents and businesses to report on overflowing bins at Captain’s Lane, J Shed and along the rail line, but it appears to be falling on deaf ears at Fremantle council and that is not good enough.
Would you let someone house sit if they left your home in a mess? Surely not, but that is what the National Trust have been doing with the Royal George Hotel in George Street, East Fremantle. The National Trust is a government-funded organisation that has been established to look after historic buildings, but it is an utter disgrace that they are neglecting the beautiful old heritage building they have now had in their care for years.
Vandals have yet again forced open doors at ground level to gain access, with the real possibility that one day someone will light a fire in there and the building will go up in smoke.
The National Trust is good at taking on new buildings and the CEO is keen boasting about it, but in reality they haven’t got the capacity or money to look after all the buildings which are supposed to be in their care, hence a building like the Royal George has been vacant for years, and apart from boarding up the windows nothing much else has been done to restore the building to its former glory and make use of it.
The George once housed artist’s studios and art gallery and a Thai restaurant, but it is now an eyesore in very attractive George Street. It is a disgrace the National Trust should be ashamed about!
It is interesting how we see things differently. While some of us are excited to see a large crane in Fremantle and the prospect of new buildings and progress, others are worried that the new buildings will take away from Fremantle’s character because of their modern blandness.
I sit on the fence on this because I’d love to see 20 cranes in Fremantle in the next six months and lots of new building going up that will herald the change that Freo needs, but I detest mediocrity and the boring design of many modern buildings, while I love great and exceptional architecture that will become heritage of the future.
Procrastination is not an option, but neither should we accept mediocrity under the guise of progress. The balance has to be right and we should aim for perfection, because only the best will do to retain Fremantle’s uniqueness.
Recent articles in the Fremantle Gazette and Fremantle Herald, about the City of Fremantle not demanding an archaeological dig of the Mediterranean Shipping Company development site at 13 Cliff Street, need to be examined.
The City has a policy for this, but according to the director of planning there is not enough historic information to warrant a dig, because there was only a shed in that location. However historian Dr Shane Burke of Notre Dame University believes there could be significant historic artifacts there relating to the first settlers.
How did the City’s heritage and planning departments and UNDA come to such opposing conclusions when they presumably have the same historic facts available to base their views on, and would it not have been more prudent to have an archaeological survey of the site anyway, just in case?
Another question is why UNDA did not approach MSA directly and ask the property owners if they could do a dig for a limited time, prior to commencement of development. It is likely MSA want to be a good new corporate citizen in Fremantle and might have given the okay.
That leads to the point to suggest that the few remaining non-developed sites in the West End should all be checked for historic remnants, and that should be one of the requirements of the planning act, and not, as is the case at the moment, a seemingly useless policy that can be ignored at random.
The Pakenham carpark site, just sold by the City, is such case, but also the long-vacant carpark site on the corner of Cliff and High streets, next to the former Tram building and owned by UNDA, should be a priority for archaeological inspection.
I am wondering though why Fremantle Council makes policies they often ignore. What is the use of lengthy deliberations and consultation and creating new policy, when councillors and officers can ignore those same policies at will because they are not binding. It appears a huge waste of time, like MOUs, which are also not worth the paper they are written on.
Councils try to reinvent the wheel time and time again with new policies and new master plans, while ignoring existing ones. Why create them when they can’t be enforced and get bypassed so often? That does not appear to be excellent governance to me.
It’s Friday, Fremantle, so let me inspire you and recommend you beat the winter chill and have a mulled wine this eve in one of Fremantle’s pubs. Don’t overdo it though and don’t drive if you have a few too many, because life is precious.
Have a great weekend!