There is no doubt the Western Australian Design Advisory Panel system is flawed and one-eyed pro-developers, with the panel frequently overruling local councils when they refuse building applications because of poor design, lack of consideration for streetscapes, unacceptable height and bulk, etc.
There is now a situation where so many high-density residential and mix-use buildings are being approved that there is an oversupply of apartments and REIWA, the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia warns that buying apartments might not be a good investment.
We already know that for every one apartment needed in the Perth metro area, two are being built, and most of those are snapped up by overseas investors.
There is also a frantic approval of high-rise office towers going on although there is a huge vacancy in that market as well, as mining and other large companies have been down-sizing. This could well result in Perth ending up with big white elephants of empty buildings, but that is the elephant in the room the WA government ignores to acknowledge. It’s development at all cost in our state, akin to the eighties when the ‘cowboys’ went on a spending spree, went broke, to jail, etc. but in the meantime managed to wreck Perth to a large extent.
The DAP was introduced in 2011 by the Barnett government and has been very controversial since, as it appears to ignore the unique character of suburbs, hence they approved a sixteen-storey building in the centre of Subiaco, and other unwanted buildings in places like Leederville, Vincent, Cottesloe, Scarborough, Fremantle, Applecross, etc.
Not only is the local character compromised but local council decision-making is belittled and democracy eroded.
Even the advise by local councils’ well-paid Design Advisory Committees of expert architects and planners, is being ignored by the State’s Design Advisory Panel and that is an intolerable situation. While a local DAC might consider the design of a building not up to the standard required, the DAP can overrule that if they consider the building to be of excellent design, which really is a slap in the face of the highly-regarded and very experienced architects who sit on the DAC.
High-rise high-density buildings are no longer built near transit corridors to satisfy demand for residential apartments, but for foreign investment and speculation, to the delight of developers, most of whom could not care less about the ambience of our councils. Older suburbs will forever be damaged when State Government rides rough shot over local council decision-making and we should be deeply worried about that.
An article in today’s West Australian shows that it is very difficult to change people’s habits and lifestyle, and that will be one of the major challenges for our governments when it comes to climate change and getting people to live more environmentally aware.
The newspaper reports that in the last six months 12,000 blocks of residential land were sold in the outer suburbs but only 1,200 of blocks were sold in the inner city suburbs. According to the West that was mainly because of affordability. A couple said they bought a 462 sqm block at Banksia Grove for only $ 242,000 and will be building a 4 bedroom house on it. Compare that with having to pay nearly $ 500,000 dollars for a one bedroom apartment in the Fremantle CBD and one can see why high density living is still hard to sell in Western Australia. Of course the urban sprawl is unsustainable in the long run, and that means the great Australian dream of owning one’s own house on a big block of land needs to change.
In Fremantle, where the balmy climate allows us to live outside nearly nine months a year, less than 3 percent of the population uses a bicycle, but in a cold and wet country like the Netherlands 27 percent of trips are done on a bike. In Holland kids go to school on their bike instead of being dropped off in the car by their parents, and large bicycle parking stations are available to commuters and travelers at most train stations.
It needs a considerable mind-set change for Australians to let go off past and present habits of over using cars and of wanting to live in houses instead of apartments.
Higher density living does not have to mean ugly highrise concrete boxes. Developers, councils and State Government need to be more creative and clever and adapt a new style of medium high attractive apartment buildings to our climate, with large-size balconies, roof terraces and courtyards to accommodate the outdoor lifestyle we embrace.
It is interesting to observe that rationale disappears and promises are broken when elected members are desperately trying to prove that their ideas are right and policy and good strategic planning are replaced by mantra and an almost religious belief in development and high density at any cost.
The promised heritage of the future is replaced by boring mediocrity, because developers put pressure on local and state governments to accept the banal or they’ll walk away and go somewhere else. Promise the Fremantle Mayor a national retailer and 300 office staff in the High Street Mall, and his resolve and promise that he would only support outstanding buildings crumbles and he is all too willing to compromise on designs that are lacking in quality, after all, he has to prove that his ‘vision’ for Fremantle is right.
It does not help either that the State Advisory Tribunal and Design Advisory Panel are behaving like giants in Gulliver’s Travels, who wander around the Perth metropolitan area and randomly step on suburbs and destroy them; Cottesloe, Subiaco, Vincent, Leederville, Fremantle crumble under Colin’s giants’ indiscriminate feet and all that in the name of progress.
Dreamworld is no longer only a fun park on the Goldcoast but is now also the way Western Australia plans its future. Elected Members dream of lightrail and ignore the reality of traffic issues that require immediate attention. They want to spend millions on bike infrastructure ignoring the reality of a very fast ageing population where soon over 50 percent of the population will be over 55 years of age, so a very large group that is unlikely to embrace bike policies and change from car to bicycle, basically because older people don’t feel safe to share the roads with inconsiderate W.A. motorists.
The Freo Mayor dismisses my concerns, commenting on this blog that one can walk and chew at the same time. I believe there is far too much chewing(dreaming) going on in our city and not enough walking(dealing with reality). Advertising the great progress of Fremantle and telling us how many millions worth of development has been approved, is not dealing with the reality that for example Sirona Capital can’t find major tenants for Kings Square and that project appears to be more and more dependent on State Government moving the Housing Department here. With financial ratings for the State falling left right and centre, it is unlikely the Treasurer will be keen on departments relocating at considerable costs, so that leaves Freo’s major development and economic revitalisation project in limbo. There are only four months left in 2014 and still no signs that the promised development of the former Myer building will start this year.
I long for the revitalisation of Fremantle, I would love to see outstanding new buildings in our city, I am keen to see the invigoration of retail, I am looking forward to thousands of new CBD residents and office workers, and hundreds of hotel guests staying here overnight, but like an under-performing football team Freo needs to get the basics rights, it needs to focus on the small things and do them well, because at the moment Premier Barnett’s pipeline idea to pump water from the Kimberley to Perth seems more realistic than a great rebirth of our inner city.
There is nothing wrong with having big plans, but they need to be built on the solid foundations of reality, great architecture, and thorough and strategic planning, and that is where Fremantle and the Western Australian State Government are lacking.
Bureaucrats, who on earth invented them! They waste an unbelievable amount of time as the call for NEW SUBMISSIONS for the local government reform shows. Read this:
This follows a decision by the Board to make another call for submissions on two proposals currently under deliberation.
The new submission period relates to the proposals submitted by the City of Melville and the Cockburn Community Steering Committee and affects the Melville, Canning, Gosnells, Fremantle, East Fremantle, Kwinana and Cockburn local governments.
The decision to go out for further public comment is a result of the submissions received from the community and local government in relation to earlier plans for the areas involved.
Mr Congerton said the Board was required under the Local Government Act to call for submissions again as it was planning to recommend some significant changes to those previously advertised.
The changes were included after taking account of the extensive feedback from the community.
How much time have they had to make decisions. Is this just a clever ploy to ignore previous submissions, because many who already wrote submissions might not bother to send in a new submission. This bureaucratic red tape stuff drives me mad. FREMANTLE FOREVER!
Former Fremantle Ports CEO Kerry Sanderson has been appointed the new Governor of Western Australia by Premier Colin Barnett on behalf of the Queen of England. She was the CEO of the Ports for 17 years and the Agent General in London after that.
Now bring on the republic so we can get rid of the monarchy in Australia, and these archaic institutions, that cost taxpayers a huge amount of money.
There is a very interesting article by Ken Acott in the West Australian today, comparing the different attitudes toward traffic management in Perth and Vancouver, with the Canadian city years ago making a deliberate decision to prioritise away from vehicle traffic and building freeways, while the W.A. Government has added hundreds of kilometres of roads to accommodate motorists.
I believe there are important messages here for the City of Fremantle and the way we plan our city. While there is already some effort of making Fremantle more cyclist-friendly, I don’t believe we are consistent enough and still have a piecemeal planning approach that is neither futuristic nor holistic enough. Old-school planning and governance cannot cope with modern ways of planning, so that is where drastic change is required.
Vancouver planned “genuine green zones” and tried to make suburbia more compact, while they prioritised shared streets for pedestrians and cyclists, and to a lesser extend vehicles. They also changed traditional commercial and retail zones into residential, something that Fremantle should have considered when planning Kings Square, instead of wanting out major city square to only house offices and retail, instead of the perfect mix of upper floor residential as well.
Fremantle needs to become more people-centric, not just bike-centric and that means making genuine changes like closing the Cappuccino Strip for cars and busses. It is disappointing that 30 Strip traders can tell Freo Council they don’t want that and that then is the end of it, while far more Fremantle people see real benefits in closing South Terrace and making it a genuine meeting place. It could even have a weekend market, a bi-monthly long dinner or lunch event, shaded seating, extending the alfresco areas of the cafes, etc.
Even with all the Kings Square community consultation there was no real strategic traffic planning for the CBD and that is what is needed. Where does Fremantle want to be in twenty years from now? Do we want the traffic flow from Adelaide Street to go past Kings Square, through the High Street mall and into the West End, or do we want circle routes that bypass the inner city, as they do in many European cities, and make the CBD more people friendly and attractive than it is now.
Former Vancouver City Planner Brent Toderian will be visiting Perth in October and I suggest the City of Fremantle should make a good effort trying to get him to a public forum or workshop, so we can listen to the inspiration Vancouver has become for many cities around the world.