The way people take part in the democratic process intrigues me. I can understand the cynicism about federal and state parliaments, as the immature kindergarten behaviour of elected members is certainly not something that instills confidence. Oppositions say no as a matter of principle to anything the government proposes and vice versa.
At local level in Fremantle and other councils, where it is not political party orientated, it is more of a NIMBY democracy, and I don’t mean that disrespectfully. It is just that most people only turn up at council and committee meetings when items are on the agenda that concern their own backyard. Rarely do people turn up who have an interest in the common good and want to participate in making Fremantle a better place for all.
This often results in comments and questions which are based on ignorance, as the process of local governance is not understood, and more or less the same questions are asked and the same accusations are made time and time again.
For example, some people who oppose the planning scheme change for McCabe Street in North Fremantle claim that the City would never allow buildings of such height in the CBD. Where were they just about two years ago when the local papers were full of people protesting against Planning Scheme Amendment 49, that allows for substantially higher buildings in the inner city? Do people care so little about the rest of the City that they can’t be bothered to inform themselves about what goes on in other parts of town? Have we become so self-centred that what happens in the west end is of no concern to those who live in the east, north or south of Freo?
I enjoy going to council and committee meetings and listening to the discussions. I want to see for myself how elected members reach conclusions and why they vote for or against them. I am impressed to see how well-informed most of them are and how hard they try to make what they believe are the right decisions. None of them are flippant or pretend to have all the knowledge, and often Councillors will seek last minute clarifications from officers who attend the meetings.
Local government is very complex and it is also very difficult because the councillors who make the decisions live in our community. They are our friends, acquaintances and local business people. It’s impossible for them to please all and they have to rely on the expert advise officers give them. One can detect the frustration sometimes for the unthankful task, but the process is fascinating and I recommend to observe it for yourself. Take part, because democracy is all of us!
The public gallery at Fremantle Council was packed with people last night, most of them concerned about the proposal for a 42-metre highrise development at McCabe street, North Fremantle, on the border of Mosman Park. The usual questions at major developments were brought up; where are the environmental and traffic studies, why is that location preferred for high density living, why has over shadowing of adjoining properties tests not been done, etc. Council had already agreed to defer the item and that more detail was needed, with Mayor Brad Pettitt saying the balance needed to be right and needs to be redefined, before the development might be approved.
The Stan Reilly site development next to Fremantle Hospital is proposed for affordable housing, carpark, commercial and retail use, but Elected Members agreed that the invitation to develop should not be left to Foundation Housing only but extend to St Patrick’s and other relevant stakeholders as well.
Councillor Andrew Sullivan questioned if there would be anyone who could put a proposal together when one considered all the criteria set by Council.
The item was also deferred.
The proposal for a small bar at the Moores Building Art Centre received doubt that it can work hand in hand with the art gallery. Councillors were concerned that a bar might have a negative impact on the running of the art space and artist in residence unit.
Several issues, e.g. toilets, needed to be addressed before council could approve an in principle agreement to develop a bar there, with Counillor Sullivan saying that he was not happy with the Kidogo process and he would not be pushed to support something that was not the best solution.
The item was deferred to get more detailed plans on how a bar and art gallery might be able to operate in the same space.
Fremantle will have a car share project in the near future with only Councillor Bill Massie raising concerns about cost, loss of car bays, loss of revenue and questioning if it was not too early to do it as Fremantle is still only a small city. The Mayor however said it would be run by a commercial and experienced company and that there was a need for it. Councillor Rachel Pemberton said she knew at least eight of her friends would make use of car share if available, so let’s wait and see.
Two interesting and quite significant development proposals will be discussed at Wednesday’s Fremantle full council meeting. The Stan Reilly site, adjacent to Fremantle Oval and Fremantle Hospital is being proposed for affordable housing for key workers, seniors and students in combination with public car parking for 350-400 vehicles. The officer’s recommendation states that the mix of residential, retail, commercial and car parking could be achieved if the carpark is partly or wholly underground. Street level retail would see the Cappuccino Strip streetscape extended south to Wray Avenue, which is a good idea in context with the development of the old synagogue site on the corner of Parry Street.
The second development proposal is significant for the east of Fremantle as it is located along Swanbourne and Knutsford streets and adjacent to Stevens Reserve. The proposal is for the 8.9 hectare piece of land to house a maximum of 470 dwellings with buildings heights between 17-20 metres, the equivalent of 4-5 storeys. There is one exception and that is for a landmark building of 47 metres, or 13 storeys on the southern edge at the Stevens Reserve boundary there.
I suggested years ago, while I still lived at 5 Swanbourne Street, that the area where the fuel tanks used to be, would be ideal for higher rise close to the CBD. The area is about one kilometre from Kings Square, with public transport only a two-minute walk away at High Street, and would be a great location to live for Notre Dame students, city retail and office workers, etc. Highrise would be hidden behind Monument Hill and is in an area that was very run down and that is being developed into residential already.
I am looking forward to Wednesday’s council session. It will be interesting to hear the opinions of our Elected Members.
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.
The decision by Western Australian Planning Minister John Day to overrule Subiaco council and allow a 16-storey building on the former Subiaco Markets site on Rokeby Road has huge implications for all local councils because it renders communities powerless to decide their own destiny and lifestyle.
The State is muscling in to local government more and more, with Direction 2031 forcing all councils to increase living density and demanding they allow higher buildings in their councils, no matter if it destroys the unique character of those suburbs.
It should greatly worry us all that the Design Advisory Panel and the Minister can overrule any council decisions on building heights, design and quality and that we no longer have a say on how we would like to live.
The result will be a sanitised Perth metro area with councils looking more and more the same and sterile, with the individuality of character being taken away from them. In years to come it might not make much difference where one lives, because Fremantle could look a lot more like West Perth.
There is no doubt that the urban sprawl of Perth can’t continue. It is not sustainable that we develop hundreds of kilometres along a coastal corridor and all have our own patch with a single house and garden. Higher density needs to be encouraged, but it needs to be done with restraint. To put a sixteen-storey building in the centre of Subiaco is vandalism. It’s disgraceful to alter the character of the comfortable shopping area there and is akin to allowing 16 storeys in Freo’s High Street mall.
We should all be very worried that the power of local governments is being drastically eroded by our State Government, and we should ask what the purpose and benefits of council amalgamations are when councils can’t decide their own future anyway. Is local government still relevant?
The City of Fremantle Strategic and General Services Committee met on Wednesday evening to debate some interesting agenda items, with the two major ones the applications to create bars at the Kidogo Arthouse and Moores Building art centres.
Kidogo owner Joanna Robertson said she would take advise from Council on building toilets inside the lean out, but asked that consideration should be given to allow for a weather protection structure to be built to accommodate the alfresco use of the area, which get buffeted by strong sea breezes often.
Councillor and Chair Andrew Sullivan rightly pointed out he believed the toilet issue at Bathers Beach was not resolved and ad hoc, and even with Kidogo and the Fishermen’s Co-op building being developed there would still not be public toilets at the inner city beach. He said he had hoped that the inside solution at Kidogo would also have accommodated an outside solution for public toilets, and that having toilets inside the art centre was only the second-best option and not the first-best one.
I agree with Andrew Sullivan that it can’t continue that the onus is on private operators to in fact run public toilets for the City. The fish&chips outlets in the area constantly get non-customers using their toilets and they need to keep them clean at a cost. That is a cop-out from the City which business owners should refuse to accept. The argument by Councillor Dave Hume that Council does not want the footprint of the former kerosene store changed, is not dealing with the reality that the area is being more and more used and public toilets of some sort and somewhere at Bathers Beach are required. Putting the head in the Bathers Beach sand instead of finding a proper solution is not good governance.
The item was approved under delegated authority, so Joanna Robertson can now go into the nitty-gritty of getting planning approval, a liquor license and a new lease contract with the City. Good luck!
The Moore&Moore Cafe application for a bar is not supported by the Fremantle Arts Centre, which manages the Moores Building Contemporary Art Centre there. Director Jim Cathcard believed there would be a clash between the use as a gallery and a bar, and there could be issues at exhibition opening and events if a bar was run simultaneously. Mayor Brad Pettitt pointed out that venues can de-license themselves for specific occasions, as the Fly by Night does when schools and community groups perform there. He also believed there could be another solution found to house the artists in residence who are staying at the Moores, and I agree with Brad on this.
One concern I have is making sure that the art on display is safe from damage and theft in a bar environment. People using the cafe don’t get intoxicated but many people consuming alcohol do, and that needs to be addressed. As the Mayor pointed out, Fremantle wants small bars, especially in the ghost town-like West End that is dead after dark, so solutions need to be explored. The item was deferred to full council.
Scaffolding went up today at the MSC-Mediterranean Shipping Company building in Cliff Street, so it appears that the erection of the new building on the carpark site adjoining it will be happening soon as well. It is disappointing an archaeological survey of the carpark area was not demanded by the City of Fremantle, as was requested by Notre Dame University.
There seems to be controversy on the historic importance of the site, with the planning director saying there was only a shed there. However former Councillor John Dowson points out in his letter in the Fremantle Herald today that the City’s history library has maps that show that in 1844 there were stone structures there and in 1855 a cottage. One has to wonder why the Director of Planning is not aware of that.
I suggested to Mayor Brad Pettitt, during a monthly Fremantle Society meeting with him on Wednesday, that instead of having a, rather ineffectual, archaeological policy, the City should make archaeological digs on development sites in the West End and other heritage sites in Fremantle compulsory and part of the act, so that it is not at the discretion of the officers. He promised to explore this suggestion further.
We had a bit of a win at the Planning Committee on Wednesday evening when an item came up the development of a new building and for the demolition of two heritage cottages in Jewel Parade, North Fremantle. The Fremantle Society opposed it because it was a Demolition by Neglect example in our opinion, and the Planning Committee rejected the development application.
Here is the City of Fremantle 2014/2015 budget, approved by Council on Wednesday:
$97.3m expenditure budget with $100k surplus.
- ~$27m in capital expenditure for key strategic projects:
$8.5m for new community facilities / upgrade of existing buildings (including heritage building restoration)
$2.8m to upgrade community amenities at parks and reserves
$4.5 million on infrastructure projects including $1m for bike infrastructure
$7.8 million purchase of new council operations centre (depot) in O’Connor.
- Increase of 5.9% inclusive of rates and waste costs.
- Operating efficiencies improved by 3% (on top of 3% improvement in 2013/14).
- $1m local government reform contingency to ensure smooth transition through the reform process.
Key infrastructure projects (2014/15)
Parks and reserves
- $100k for Gold Street park and playground upgrades,
- $130k for a playspace program at Fremantle Primary School
- $100k for the development of a playground area at Davis Park
- $350k for infield irrigation and playground upgrade works at Bruce Lee Reserve
- $150k for stage one of the Cantonment Hill upgrade
- $100k for Monument Hill Anzac Centenary Celebration
- $1.2m for a new Leighton Beach kiosk and changerooms
- $1.1m to re-align the Fremantle Public Golf Course and for a new community integrated facility and clubhouse
- $400k for Fremantle Arts Centre sustainability work
- $340k for new facility for Mens Shed in Hilton
- $200k to upgrade Port Beach changerooms
- $165k for a full basketball court at South Beach
- $55k for a basketball half court at the Esplanade Youth Plaza
Arts and culture
- An additional $100k for community arts program to provide for suburban art projects (total budget for community art projects of $140,000)
- Ongoing financial support for a dedicated Arts and Culture Project Officer to develop Fremantle’s art sector
- $1m allocated to upgrading Fremantle bicycle infrastructure
- $1.4m road improvement program
- $560k for restoration works of the Town Hall
- Stage 1 of the upgrade of the Old Fremantle Boys School for $850,000
- $500k for further conservation works at Fremantle Markets
- 490k for maintenance work at Victoria Pavilion (Fremantle Oval)
- 480k for upgrade works on the Evan Davies building in South Terrace
- $200k for Old Fire Station upgrades
Land and buildings
- $8m to develop the new council depot
- $500k for design work and development application for the new $45m City administration centre in Kings Square
- $350k to improve lighting in the Fremantle CBD
- $65k for additional CCTV cameras
- 1% of rates to renewable energy reserve
- $582k for Leighton beach landscaping
- $100k to implement permanent street recycling bins in Fremantle CBD
- $50k for greening the West End
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.
The City of Fremantle will be establishing a Green Plan Working Group to identify opportunities for new green spaces in Fremantle and recommend options for upgrading existing parks.
The working group is to apply the Nature Play principles in their deliberations, that encourages younger people to enjoy the outdoors more often.
The aim is for every resident and worker to be within a 400-metre walking distance of a public green space.
I think that is a very good starting point, as many in the Freo community have voiced concerns about Fremantle not pro-actively creating new green spaces in an environment of higher-rise office and residential development, when there will be more need for public open green spaces to accommodate the higher number of people, especially in the CBD.