The world did not end and the earth did not even tremble when Fremantle Council approved the controversial pub and outdoor music venue at J Shed on Bathers Beach about an hour before midnight on Wednesday.
Council signed off on the project against the wishes of the local Nyoongar people, who had sent elder Richard Wilkes to address council, and against the vast majority of inner city residents and beyond.
While the evening was a fascinating observation of how we conduct democracy at local level, it was also annoying that many public speakers and elected members spoke for far too long and could not get to the point. It obviously upset Councillor Strachan, who said during the debate that he would be more succinct than Councillor Sullivan.
Councillor Sullivan was so heated up and passionate about it all that he even called for the almighty, just to say that if the Bathers Beach markets attracted thousands of people, what a good thing a main attractor would be for the area. It was interesting to note that none of the Elected Members made the connection that the markets already is a main attractor on Saturdays in summer and offers a family friendly environment to thousands. Synergy between the market and a great small pub at J Shed would have worked very well without the need for an outdoor music venue that is contradictory to the promised family friendly art related pub. An 18+ ticketed music event is not family friendly and only Councillor Strachan seemed to have noticed that.
There were calls to “Save faith in good governance” and that we should not rely on self-regulation in a competitive environment of alcohol sales, but there was also a wide-eyed, like a rabbit in the Bradlight, supporter who had just been to Berlin and gushed about how wonderful activation of space would be for Fremantle. The old guard had to step aside and let council go on and stop opposing everything, the fan of our Mayor said.
The historic significance of Arthur Head was pointed out by many speakers, but Councillor Coggin knew better than historians and told the chamber that they should not pretend that J Shed is an amazing heritage place. It is not a unique heritage environment he claimed.
Former Freo heritage architect Agnieshka Kiera said the proposal does not comply with the A Class Reserve status, while John Dowson claimed it was a grossly insensitive proposal for a significant natural monument.
The rather irrelevant semantics of numbers came up with Councillor Naber wanting to lower the number of patrons. However his and Councillor Pemberton’s calls for a smaller building footprint made a lot of sense and might see a larger piece of the A Class Reserve preserved for the public.
Pemberton also said that the proposal was out of proportion for the site and that the dominant features were heritage, culture and the natural environment of the area. She said the resounding feedback she had from the community, and one she felt herself, was one of unease about the pub proposal.
Mayor Brad Petitt did not engage much in the debate, but stated the outdoor music venue would put Freo on the map and will attract those kind of bands we want to see. It has got the potential for quite an amazing project, he said.
I was impressed with Councillor Josh Wilson trying to explain how difficult it is to make the right decisions. He contemplated sincerely on what is appropriate, what is right, what is the right size and venue, and if there is a right answer and right decision.
The item was passed with only Councillors Pemberton, Strachan, Massie and Wainwrights voting against it, so J Shed will get a noisy music venue and pub, unless State Government does not approve it on the A Class Reserve.
I sent an email to all the Fremantle Elected members two weeks ago about the J Shed pub issue and received a reply from Councillor Rachel Pemberton that needs to be scrutinised.
* Pemberton claims that the “J Shed has little heritage significance.” The area and A Class Reserve however is a place of substantial heritage significance, Rachel, and it is straight below the Round House, our State’s oldest public building!
* Pemberton writes that sound modeling has shown that noise from the venue will be mitigated by the cliff face. Which professional company did the sound test and what times of the day were they done, and where can we read their report? Fact is that sound will bounce off the cliff face and the strong seabreeze will carry it all over Fremantle. One also needs to consider that 15 ticketed events a year will not be the only outdoor concerts held at the proposed venue, as nothing in the lease will stop Sunset Events from also holding non-ticketed events on weekdays.
* Parking is not an issue according to Councillor Pemberton because the proponents can make good use of underutilised space during their peak times. What has not been addressed is that Fremantle Ports plans to develop Victoria Quay and the TAFE site, both indicated by councillors and officers as the parking areas for the J Shed pub, so where will patrons park in ten years from now when those developments have been implemented? Or is that another Council’s problem in the future? Remember that the J Shed lease is for 21 years.
* I am stunned that Pemberton writes that space-making for the area was always only intended as short-term, because neither placemaking expert David Engwicht nor Fremantle Council ever mentioned that at the community consultation sessions I took part in.
* Like other Elected Members Rachel Pemberton appears blinded by money, writing that the proponents will invest millions, and that the area is in need of an upgrade, on which Sunset will spend $ 150,000+ on landscaping. Will that be inside or outside their property boundaries, Councillor?
* Pemberton writes she supports a “main activator of the area” but a main activator already exists in the Bathers Beach Sunset Food Markets each Saturday in summer. That family friendly community market, I am involved with, would be forced away from the area because of the planned Saturday live concerts at the micro brewery.
Urban planner Linley Lutton‘s reply to comments made by Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt is a bit long for a blog post, but I don’t believe that it would be correct for me to cut and paste it, so here it is in full:
Following my recent FICRA talk, I have read blog comments from the Mayor saying that I made a number of errors. He specifically mentioned errors I made with respect to floor area targets and building set back requirements for Queensgate. Like everyone I am certainly capable of making errors and will admit them when I do so however, I don’t believe I did so in my talk. I may not have adequately expressed my arguments but this differs from being incorrect. I thought I would send you this email which addresses his comments. The response is a little long but hopefully you can use it in some way.
With respect to gross floor area targets. The Mayor claimed my assertions that the COF had a target of 270,000m2 of gross floor area was not correct.
In 2011, I was engaged by the COF to participate in a strategic sites study where the council set the target for additional gross floor area at 270,000m2 – as stated in my talk. A COF presentation was used to brief myself and others. (See attached CCSSWG presentation. I know you can’t put this on your blog but I send it nevertheless to verify my claims.)
Several objectives were set for the study, one of which was to achieve a GFA of 270,000m2 in the central city area of Fremantle. This information was used to establish the building height variations for the sites described in amendment 49.
Later in 2011, after completion of the strategic sites study, they engaged Urbis to determine how much floor space may be taken up in Fremantle. Of course this should have been done before the study commenced.
Rather than validating the COF’s assessments and targets of 270,000m2 the report says: “we consider that an aspirational target for new, purpose built office space within Fremantle over the ten year period to 2021 would be in the range of 20,000m2 to 40,000m2 in total and 30,000m² – 50,000m² for the decade following 2021. However, in order to achieve these outcomes, it will be necessary to develop a long term strategy which will maximise the potential attractiveness of Fremantle for both developers and occupiers of office space, as some other centres within the Perth metropolitan area currently have greater attributes in relation to being centred within large white collar catchment areas and have greater all round transport accessibility.”
I provided a list of suburban areas in the metropolitan area where developers are in fact building new purpose built office accommodation and these compete directly with Fremantle.
It is critical to note use of the term ‘aspirational target’ in the Urbis report. There is a very big difference between an aspirational target and achievability. The issue here is that the COF applied a wholesale change to permitted building heights across the Fremantle CBD in the form of planning amendment 49 to achieve their own target of 270,000m2 of additional gross floor area, when independent advice states that a far lesser target should have been considered. In my talk I outlined a range of reasons why Fremantle would struggle to achieve even the Urbis targets.
The way any urban redevelopment project starts, and I have been involved in many, is by setting targets which are then used as the basis to determine how much change needs to be made in terms of building stock. The COF actually started with an unworkable target. Sadly, this is history now because amendment 49 has been gazetted however the community should know the background, which was in my talk.
With respect to building heights and setbacks under Amendment 49
The Mayor claimed that I was wrong when I said the upper levels of the Queensgate building needed to be setback from the street.
The default position enabling increased building heights under Amendment 49 is that additional height may only be granted provided it is not seen from the streets and neighbouring public spaces. This means a substantial upper floor set back is required if additional height is being sought. This is very good urban planning practice, as I stated, and is strongly advocated even in the state planning policy Directions 2031 as the better way to deal with taller buildings when they are required in places like Fremantle.
However amendment 49 has a clause that curiously undoes this good practice by stating that the setback is not required if the additional height is granted on the basis that it meets high standards associated with appearance, environmental sustainability, and its impact on the amenity of the surrounding public realm.
My argument at the talk was that the current Queensgate proposal does not satisfy the level of excellence required to exempt it from the setback requirement.
The DAC, according to their written comments made public recently, had focussed primarily on the architectural merit of the Queensgate proposal. The question of overall environmental sustainability and the building’s impact on the public realm appeared not to have been fully addressed. In my opinion, the proposal was not sufficiently advanced in its resolution to be granted exemption of the requirement to set the upper storeys back from the street. The DAC comments stated that ‘the proposal achieved pedestrian permeability, allowing legible connections to other city facilities’, which is code for it includes enclosed malls at ground level which I stated in my talk would most likely contribute very little to the public realm as is the case everywhere else in Fremantle and in much of Perth.
The proposal falls well short of the special requirements exempting it from setbacks and it should therefore be considered as if a setback is required and this was the point I was attempting to make.
The Mayor then goes on to question my statement that Fremantle is not actually broken. He is certainly entitled to his opinion on this and we obviously disagree. In my talk I presented a range of key indicators which show Fremantle is far from being a basket case. I did say that some large wool store buildings needed redevelopment, some tired old 1960s buildings could be remodelled and more people should live in the city centre but overall things weren’t too bad.
The mayor’s stated reasons for believing Fremantle is broken are interesting. He refers to housing affordability and a decline in suburban retail activity and its associated workforce as a sign that something needs to be done. Housing affordability and suburban retail decline is certainly not unique to Fremantle and is being experienced across the entire metropolitan area. As I said in my talk, Fremantle is subjected to overwhelming competitive retail pressures and constricted catchment areas which the COF can do little about. It is also very hard to imagine any way in which a local government can make housing affordable in Perth. Building apartments in the centre of Fremantle certainly won’t achieve affordability if this is his argument.
I went to hear a Fremantle-based writer at the writer’s festival over the weekend and he spoke publically about living in Fremantle. His view was that Fremantle was a quiet easy going place to live and he loved that aspect of it. Activity was there in the central areas as needed. And incidentally, he was not an older person.
My talk was aimed at helping the community learn how to engage with the planning process. My opening remarks stressed that the most sustainable cities are ones where the community is fully involved in and supportive of its development. Perhaps this paragraph from an international biourbanism article I recently wrote is relevant:
“If we are to inhabit cities which support our wellbeing and nurture our growth we must show the current generation of developers and governments that there are far better ways to build cities. True long-term sustainability in our urban environments comes from a collaborative approach between the community and government. A bottom-up approach to city planning is essential. This requires the involvement of the grass roots community. Planners and architects working on their own do not have the answers. We owe it to our children and our grandchildren to fight for better city planning and community empowerment.”
P.S. I made the last lines bold, not Mr Lutton.
Like a politician Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt is trying to divert attention away from the debate about his embarrassing spin comparing the J Shed pub proposal to the Fringe Festival, by attacking urban planner Linley Lutton‘s talk. The Mayor of course did not attend the event, so he would only have heard and read about it.
Brad Pettitt attacks Lutton for having said that nothing is broke and nothing needed to be fixed in Fremantle, but this was mentioned by Lutton in the context of Fremantle being a self-contained community that works well and meets UN standards and as such is functioning pretty well.
I doubt anyone would argue with the Mayor that development is needed in Fremantle and that there are things that need to be changed, but the question is how much development Fremantle can sustain and what needs to be fixed, and that is where the community and Lutton do not agree with Council on many points.
It is too easy to ignore Lutton’s warning that there is no demand for all the office space Fremantle is trying to develop, and there is no doubt it will be a huge challenge to fill all that future retail space.
I am also worried about the Mayor saying it is about getting the mix right, when no residential development around Kings Square is planned, but he talks about night-time activation of the area. Is the Mayor thinking about bars all around our city square without the passive/active surveillance of residents living above the retail street level? That could be a disaster in the making that they got wrong in Northbridge for far too long, and that still requires huge Police resources on weekends.
It appears to be a trend in Fremantle that the advise of experts and the concerns of the community are brushed aside by many elected members, who believe they have got all the know-how and wisdom. That is a very worrying trend for our City, especially with the possibility that State Government might not appoint a Commissioner to oversee the local government amalgamation, but leave Freo Council in place and in charge.
I want to make some points about a comment made on this blog by Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt, so that everyone is in the loop I first post his comments, and then my thoughts below them.
Notwithstanding that Linley Lutton got the office demand figures complexly wrong in his presentation the other night, it is true that the demand for office space in Fremantle is not as high as the Council would want it to be, and, indeed, if the Council really was displaying the ‘childlike eagerness’ for development that you claim it has, we could easily fill Kings Square development with luxury residential apartments – this is by far the most commercial use of the land. That is, of course, precisely not what we want to do.
We are promoting office uses in this area as the Council (and the broader community as always supported us in this regard) has always wanted Fremantle to be a diverse, vibrant and active employment node – a destination for workers as well and tourists.
It seems we’ll never get this right for some people – we’re accused of either pandering to the wishes of developers and the market, or when we try and promote uses which are less than market optimal (but absolutely necessary in the interests of creating a balanced and genuinely multi-use city centre, we’re accused of harbouring ambitions above our capacity.
Not sure I understand that argumentation Brad, as you wanted to significantly increase residential living in the inner city and activate it. That can’t happen with office and retail only and so far there are no indications of substantial residential development planned for the CBD, as it all concentrates on CBD East at Queen Victoria and Beach streets.
In my opinion diversity is not an office ‘ghetto’ around Kings Square and a residential one on the way to the traffic bridge. Th mix simply needs to be better, and office and residential mix well together and create 24 hour a day activation and surveillance. Surely that is preferable to only office space near our City square.
I was at ALL but ONE of the community consultation sessions on Kings Square and we always talked about a mix of office, residential and retail, so wherever you got the idea from that the broader community supports office only around Kings Square is factually wrong, unless you refer to the silent majority we never hear from or see at those sessions.
There is a media report today about vacant office space in West Perth having increased from 5.2 percent to a record 12.6 percent in the last 12 months and rents are down by 20 percent. The journalist writes that West Perth looks like a giant billboard for available office space.
I have warned for ‘White Elephants” of empty offices, but it appears Fremantle council does not want to talk about those (white) elephants in the room.
Which way do you go when you want to move on, create chance and activate your city, when nothing really is broken and nothing needs urgent fixing? That was one of the many-rhetorical- questions at the FICRA organised event Fremantle-Which Way? held at Notre Dame University.
Over 250 people attended the evening, among them Councillors Massie and Sullivan, Director of Planning Phil St. John, former Freo heritage architect Agnieshka Kiera, present Fremantle Society president Henty Farrar and former one Ian Alexander. Disappointing that the City Ward councillors were absent.
Former Councillor John Dowson started it off by saying this was FICRA’s positive contribution to a better Fremantle, and that it was important for the community to re-engage with the planning process.
Urban planner, architect and developer Linley Lutton was the guest speaker and he did an impressive presentation on Fremantle’s development future. When community representatives engage is what makes sustainable cities, according to Belgium expert Louis Albrecht, Lutton told the audience. The community takes ownership if it has some say in the process. It was also essential for council to understand the ramifications of their actions, and one had to ask what the urgency is all about.
Lutton said there were far more desirable location in the metro area for office development than Fremantle, e.g. West Perth, Subiaco, Stirling, Cockburn Central and Jolimont, and that the Myer and Queensgate plans were fanciful, because there was no need for all that office space in Fremantle, while it was competing with Victoria Quay. He said the Kings Square development would be wonderful if it became residential instead of office space. He believed the targets set by the City are unrealistic and too high, with a planned 275,000 of square metres being more than double the 105,000 needed outside the Perth CBD, according to an URBIS report.
Having just resigned from the Fremantle Design Advisory Committee, Lutton lamented the Point Street big box development and that the DAC could not get the developers to break it down in scale. “We wanted a well-moduled building. The street frontage was highly problematic from the DAC point of view.” “Cities succeed or fail at street level.”
There is a lack of viability when projects promise more than they realistically can deliver, and there is a lack of evidence of clients committed to quality outcome when it comes to large buildings.
Lutton expressed concern that Council would be manipulating its own regulations if it ignored the PSA 49 requirement of set backs to allow discretionary additional height and that the Queensgate vertical rise part at William Street, would be in contradiction with PSA 49 because it is not set back.
In more general terms Linley expressed that the role of local government is to represent the community, and that includes matters of land development and planning. This Fremantle local government is not even close to having a mandate to do what it likes, he warned. Fremantle is crying out for people to live in the inner city and should encourage mixed use of street level retail with residential units above it.
It was a very good evening and I wonder why no one at Council has been listening to the concerns of the community. I have questioned many times if so much office space is needed in Fremantle, and why there is no residential development at Kings Square. To hear an urban planning expert like Linley Lutton raise the same points, reaffirms to me that we are not asking the wrong questions, and that we are not anti development, but that we want our councillors to listen better and stop pretending they have all the knowledge and wisdom, and to stop treating us as if we are just a noisy, ignorant and negative minority group.
There will be a very interesting event, organised by FICRA, next Tuesday, February , at 7 pm at the Medical School of Notre Dame University, where highly-regarded urban planner, architect and developer Dr Linley Lutton will speak about Fremantle‘s development future; FREO’S FUTURE-WHICH WAY?
Lutton, who controversially resigned from the City of Fremantle‘s Design Advisory Committee, will discuss why people must re-engage with the planning process in Fremantle.
The man who started the Perth City Gatekeepers in protest against the Elizabeth Quay development, will also consider if the extend of development proposals for Fremantle are realistic.
And what is the way forward with Queensgate, Myer, Kings Square, Spicer, Point Street, and Victoria Quay?
There is no doubt Fremantle is on the cusp and that major development will happen, but how much is too much and how high is too high. Do we risk creating large buildings that will be vacant for years for lack of demand, are the targets set by the City of Fremantle unrealistic, how real is the chance for a large state government department to move into Freo, etc.
There are a lot of questions and there is a lot of cynicism about development in our City. We all want progress and we want our city to grow and move forward, but are we on the right track, or does Council need to reconsider and fine-tune where we are going?
I am really looking forward to this evening and hope it will be a very constructive one that will benefit Fremantle.
In light of recent discussions on this blog about new building development in Fremantle, the Design Advisory Committee, Planning Scheme Amendment 49, and Green Star rating, I want to put some facts out I received from a government source:
The City of Fremantle has a policy that specifies with a minimum 4 Star Green Star provision, but they also effectively say in the policy ‘or equivalent’, which means that alternative designs can be considered or negotiated with the developer. All policies are not ‘mandatory’ requirements, it only provides guidance and advocates for a certain outcome that a local government is trying to achieve. It should also be noted that Green Star is a comprehensive, national, voluntary environmental rating system that evaluates the environmental design and construction of buildings and communities. It is therefore difficult for any local government to mandate a requirement that is only voluntary on the national scene. Until the Green Star building requirements are translated into the National Construction Code, a local government can only advocate for its use in new developments, like the City of Fremantle is doing through its policy.
Fremantle isn’t the only local government in WA with this advocacy of the sustainable building design or Green star concepts – a quick look around found similar policies at Joondalup, Vincent, Melville and Wanneroo.
I am sorry to have to write another blog article that questions how the City of Fremantle plans and works. Mayor Brad Pettitt claims I have made the City the whipping boy of my blog this year, but that is not by choice. I would rather write positive stories about our City, but too many things just can’t be left without commenting on it.
The article I published yesterday about Planning Services Committee being asked to lower the Affordable Housing percentage from 15% to 10%, as part of the only recently introduced PSA 49 discretionary additional height allowance, made me wonder where the Planning Department gets advise from. Who are the experts they talk to before writing recommendations for the Elected Members, do they talk to industry experts like architects, builders, state government departments, etc?
How is it we now suddenly hear that 15% affordable housing would result in only mediocre buildings, as developers would not ask for additional height, because they see the affordable housing rule as a negative. Why is it CoF now finally discovers that there is no huge need for office space in our city and that the Kings Square and Victoria Quay developments will cater for most of that need? Did anyone do any research on that before PSA 49 was suggested and implemented?
Has anyone done research on how much residential development is needed in Fremantle, and I don’t mean Council wanting more people to live in the CBD, but figures from the Real Estate Institute telling us there is high demand for Freo inner city living. Do we know or is it just a wish?
The Design Advisory Committee ‘rules of engagement’ appear to have been a piecemeal document that now is being revised, because the way the DAC reported back to Council was unsatisfactory. Why wasn’t it done properly in the first place, and why did it have to become a shambles that was questioned by one of its members who resigned, and by the public, who were as always dismissed by Elected Members, who tell us we don’t know what we’re talking about.
How serious is Fremantle really about Affordable Housing? I keep hearing all the right words, but no one seems to be walking the talk, but for Councillor Sam Wainwright, who is genuine in his desire to get a lot more good affordable, and I mean affordable!, housing in Fremantle.
The City of Fremantle is not my new whipping boy, but it needs to realise it can no longer get away with empty promises, bad piecemeal planning, unsatisfactory community consultation, and ad hoc on the run decisions.
Handing over the City to developers, who are not at all interested in delivering high quality buildings and affordable housing, just because this Council is so desperate to want to implement change for change’s sake, is not acceptable. The Fremantle community expects and demands better from our intelligent and passionate Elected Members, and we demand much better performances from under-performing officers, and the CEO needs to address the mediocrity in his ranks.