Freo's View


Posted in city of fremantle, fremantle by freoview on October 12, 2014

Development is always going to be controversial in Fremantle- and probably in most councils-but here even more so because it could impact on the heritage significance of our city. Does that mean that higher modern buildings should not be built in Freo? No, of course not! It is all about getting the balance right and with that I don’t just mean height but probably more so location. A well-designed modern building of appropriate scale and bulk in the right location will become an asset to Fremantle, while a building of similar height and bulk in an inappropriate location could be a disaster. And that is a concern because many developers want to develop in the heart of the city and in the historic West End of town, without necessarily considering the impact new buildings will have on the streetscape and unique historic attraction of Fremantle.

When one realises that the concerns of the local communities are often ignored by Councils or overruled by the State’s Design Advisory Panel(DAP) and State Administration Tribunal(SAT), one has to start getting worried. But I also warn for unrealistic expectations to retain the status quo in Fremantle, with some people opposing new development as a matter of course, unwilling to accept that additional height is the modern way of building. We will have to accept that the Fremantle of the future will not be low-rise only.

It does not help that Fremantle Council is in a bit of panic mode, with very little happening at the much boasted Kings Square development, hence they are extremely keen to accept any other development and it is disappointing that the Design Advisory Committee (DAC) experts we pay for are also willing to compromise and even cite commercial viability as a reason for approving mediocre design.

The Fremantle community should not have to accept average new buildings like the one on the corner of Short and Pakenham streets, or the Hilton hotel and Westgate Mall developments. We should not have a Council that is so keen to get short-term economic recovery that is bends over backward to accommodate developers.

I do however have less concerns for development along Queen Victoria and Beach Street. These streets have a few important old buildings but the rest is or was pretty average and new development there will enhance and revitalise the area. That does not mean that we should have to accept big, bland and boring boxes of mediocre design and building quality. Fremantle should always demand the best because we are a special and unique city that deserves outstanding design and quality of buildings.

Victoria Quay is going to be very interesting. Done well it could become a great attraction with waterfront alfresco cafes and restaurants and attractive public open spaces, and hopefully there will also be significant recognition of the history of place.

I personally have no problem with a taller 10-12 storey building at VQ over the rail line from Queens Street because the other buildings will be spread out to allow for view corridors and will be 4-5 storeys only. What is essential though is that the public realm will be developed synchronously with the first buildings and not been left as a late addition to the commercial buildings. COF are making that mistake in the CBD where buildings are approved by Council without any indication of where new public open spaces will be developed to accommodate workers, residents and visitors, and that is unacceptable short-sighted planning by the City of Fremantle.

I am excited about the modernisation of Fremantle, but it needs to be done with extreme care and consideration for the unique ambience of our city. Freo is not the only council battling economic decline. It happens all over WA, Australia and the world, so let us just chill out a bit and take more time before we rush into inappropriate development in the inner city.

Forget the blackmail that developers won’t build unless they get substantially more height. Fremantle will attract the right developers who are willing to show consideration for our heritage and who are willing to compromise, because in the long run that will be good for them. A unique town centre with outstanding buildings will increase the value of their properties.

Fremante Council needs to relax and stay firm and have a clear quality vision for the CBD. They need to stop compromising on quality and realise it is not their task to make development commercially viable. It should also demand that the Design Advisory Committee only assesses the design quality of a building, not it’s commercial viability. That’s not what they get paid for and it’s not part of their brief.

Roel Loopers


Posted in aboriginal, fremantle, fremantle ports, victoria quay by freoview on October 9, 2014

The City of Fremantle Special Projects Committee had a first discussion about the just released plans for Victoria Quay by Fremantle Ports. My first impression is that the Ports have listened and taken all the community workshops input into account and the plans are so much better than the two ugly ING boxes proposed years ago that were abandoned due to public pressure.

What we now see is a series of low 4-5 storey buildings with just one higher 10-12 storey building east of Queens Street.

This is an integrated plan and a lot about connectivity between the CBD and the waterfront, with a shift of the busport to the east and a new entry from Queens Street.

There would also be a new railway crossing at Pakenham Street, and Peter Huges Drive in the Port, north of the railway line, would be extended all the way to Cliff Street, which would be an alternative east-west connection to Phillimore Street.

I think these are sensible and acceptable plans that  still require detailed fine-tuning and consideration, but as an overall concept they are positive for Fremantle and to activate Victoria Quay, so well done to Fremantle Ports and consultants CODA for listening so well to the community and all the stakeholders.

On behalf of the Fremantle Society I spoke yesterday against the proposal for a substantial building on Pioneer Park along Short and Pakenham streets and warned that we can not afford to lose more green open space in the inner city, even more so because new development will see many more people using the CBD and they will need green lingering nodes and places for people to relax and children to play.

I pointed out that the City’s desire to activate the reserve was partly to blame on them because they have done little to make the park attractive. For example why is there not a playground near the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre that attracts a lot of kids?

But thinking about it this morning I thought I could envisage a row of 2-3 storey residential townhouses along Short Street being quite attractive and taking up only a small percentage of the green space.

I believe that the City of Fremantle in general needs to better plan public and green spaces, as they do at Subi Centro in Subiaco where the Carter Lane precinct is being promoted as “Green Spaces Galore” and being a “distinctive feature of the precinct.”

There is a bit of ambiguity in the statement that Victoria Quay would have retail that does not undermine retail in the CBD. How is that going to work? The area is designed as a commercial/retail/tourism precinct so that would have cafes, bars and restaurants which would no doubt compete with those along the Cappuccino Strip and elsewhere in the inner city. It’s a silly notion really to believe a new waterfront destination will not attract people away from the CBD. Of course it will, but that is just the way the world works and CBD traders will have to counter act that.

Concerns were raised that there is the opportunity for building heights to go up if they have excellence in design, but that no limit has been set on the additional discretionary height. That is not acceptable and needs to be addressed, and there needs to be a Design Advisory Committee appointed for that and not been left to the discretion of Fremantle Ports.

The idea raised by some Councillors that there could be a “development authority’ for implementing the VQ development is not a bad one as it would bring cohesion to it and deal easier with stakeholders like the Public Transport Authority. This would also take care about a possibility that only the commercially most viable buildings would be built but the public realm neglected.

I am not sure why there would be the need for weather proof access to the train station from the Post Office in Market Street, as Councillor Sullivan keeps talking about. It sounds a bit too much to me as those ugly passage ways they build between school buildings and I can’t see any need for that in a city environment. All over the world one crosses station forecourt squares without being protected from the rain or sun, so why Fremantle needs to have something like it, that will be a visual barrier at Market Street, and needs to be high enough to accommodate buses and trucks, is not something I support. It is a walk that takes two minutes so why we would need protection from the rain and sun I do not understand.

The timeframe and implementation of the plans are crucial I believe. Ideally we would not want VQ commercial office space to compete with that being built at Kings Square, so hopefully Sirona Capital will get a head start and pre-lease the Myer and Queensgate buildings soon and can get started on the development there that is most essential for the re-activation of the inner city.

I am worried about Freo’s short-term future but excited about the long-term one. The modernisation and revitalisation of our city is essential to retain the State’s second city status and it is crucial for our local economy and traders. The entire development of Fremantle though needs to be handled sensitively and the authorities need to insist on high quality and well designed new buildings. Boring bland concret boxes will not do and have to be rejected vehemently.

Roel Loopers


Posted in fremantle, city of fremantle by freoview on October 2, 2014

Is the future of Fremantle high, ugly and boring or will Council insist on design quality and mixed-use diversity? This is a question Fremantle Councillors should have a very deep think about, because the decisions they make now will have a huge impact for a very long time. It is no longer appropriate to see building applications as individual. Long-term strategy and guidelines for development need to be considered and implemented if planning is to step up considerably and professionally and away from piecemeal approval that does not consider the overall impact.

Another boring apartment building will go up at Leighton Beach and again there is no effort made by the developers for street-level commercial activity. The MIRVAC speaker also said a 100-bed hotel would be proposed for Leighton Beach soon as well. Great idea for the vitality of that beach just a few metres away from the North Fremantle train station.

But parking is already a major problem for  parents who drop off their children at the Surf Club and the area is quite boring really, especially the walk from the train station to the beach. It would be nice to see more shops and cafes opening there to make the uninspiring place more attractive. Something Manly-like would be nice.

The future for McCabe Street in North Freo, on the border of Mosman park, is high-rise and very controversial, with many speakers warning about the impact 33-42 metre high-rise would have on their neighbourhood. They rightly questioned why community consultation was done on proposed 17 metre-high buildings, but the Planning Services Committee was now discussing buildings of up to 42 metres. As one speaker said, that is like putting a high-rise on top of a high-rise, and it should go back to more intense community consultation.

The fact that public open spaces for the area were not part of the deliberations, also received criticism.

Overshadowing of the neighbourhood, all the way to the river, but also affecting Leighton Beach is something Council really needs to take into account.

Councillor Andrew Sullivan appears to be the one on Council who often pushes for more height, and citing commercial viability, and he said that the extra height-to 42 metres- would produce a more interesting physical built form, but luckily most other Councillors disagreed with him and the clause for additional discretionary  height above 33 metres was deleted on the motion of Mayor Brad Pettitt.

For me one of the more interesting parts of the deliberations between the Elected Members was that several said they were not confident they would get the carefully balanced designed required for such a tall building. That is because the State’s DAP or SAT overrule many local council decisions and allow inappropriate and mediocre buildings against the wishes of the local community.

A negative for the Fremantle community is that Councillor Sullivan is one of two Freo Council members on the Design Advisory Panel(DAP) and not allowed to represent Council views, but only his own personal-more height-ones. That to me is a worry. The second Freo member on the DAP is Deputy Mayor Josh Wilson.

The item will go back to full council in a few weeks from now, so let’s debate community ambience, public open and green spaces, traffic management and quality control.

While I not always agree with the decisions Councillors in Fremantle make, I admire the fact that they are very thorough in their deliberations and take their job seriously. It’s always fascinating to hear the deliberations as it is grassroots democracy at work.

Roel Lopers


Posted in city of fremantle, fremantle by freoview on September 29, 2014

One of the reasons I started this Freo’s View blog four years ago was to provide a forum for the community to debate all things that matter to Fremantle.  I was expecting that there would be people who’d criticise my articles, and fair enough, what I write only represents my personal views, preferences and taste, and other people have different views, likes and dislikes.

But to receive comments that I am uninformed-even ignorant-and that I an “reactionary idiot” is quite funny because I do more to pro-actively inform myself than most Fremantle people.

Not only do I attend as many Council and planning committee meetings as I can, I also try to be at most planning information sessions about new development and attend most community workshops on just about everything. I also constantly look on the internet at city planning from around the globe to see what the new trends are.

Those who claim I am against development, or against “outsiders” developing in Fremantle, quite clearly do not know what they are talking about and have not read my many articles in support of development, so let me spell it out once again.

I don’t like the Hilton Hotel development at Point/Adelaide streets because I find the design boring and mediocre. I do like the saw-tooth roof building planned for the Spicers site and I believe the design of the Queensgate building is acceptable, while the plans for the MYER redevelopment could have been more daring.

The Civic Centre building design for Kings Square by Kerry Hill architects has a bit of class and is appropriate, but it failed to be iconic and that is disappointing.

The Atwell Arcade development is also disappointing, but at least the heritage aspect of the mall as a thoroughfare will be retained and that is important, but the exterior should have been so much better. The same applies to the short-term accommodation on the corner of Pakenham and Short street. Yes, the heritage character of the interior is respected but the exterior is really a slap in the face for the West End heritage precinct. The development on the corner of Banister and Pakenham is also a pretty bland box of nothingness.

I do like the Cliff Street development by architect Murray Slavin. This will be an inconic modern building that compliments the heritage buildings next to it.

Let me make a few more points; I am not a NIMBY, as none of the planned development is anywhere near my backyard in White Gum Valley. Contrary to those who propose inappropriate development in Fremantle I am not commenting because of personal financial gain, but solely because of my love for Fremantle.

Contrary to others I do not believe that any change and transformation is good for Fremantle. Change just for the sake of change is not progress and mediocre new buildings will in the long run be a negative for our city. I am also a big believer in integrated planning, instead of stand-alone development, and I would like to see a higher emphasis on residential CBD development and not mainly commercial and retail.

Disagree with me as much as you like, but at least inform yourself and attend Council and information meetings, as I do. I spend many hours a week trying to help make Fremantle a better place, without any financial benefits for myself. I promote events, festivals, businesses, art exhibitions, etc. on this blog and support Freo as a destination by publishing stunning photos of the city.

I have a real passion for Fremantle and I do not apologise for that. I will continue to support great modern development and criticise bland mediocrity, no matter how many people attack me.

Mea culpa for caring.

Roel Loopers


Posted in fremantle by freoview on September 26, 2014

hampton 100 1

It was a very uplifting experience to listen to Rebecca Eggleston and Rebecca Clarkson from project manager FORM  last eve at the Fremantle Network function at Clancys. The ladies talked about the Fremantle 100 Hampton Road social housing project.

This is not simply about providing accommodation for those in need but also about supporting them with social and life-skill issues.

100 Hampton is a 190-bed lodging house where residents receive a single room and shared kitchen, bathroom and laundry facilities for 25% of their income.

But what FORM creates is also a safe environment with cooking, furniture-making, bike repair classes, and on Wednesdays it is shared-lunch day.

100 Hampton is about taking the paranoia out of the neighbourhood by trying to be better neighbours, and communicate and collaborate with those who live around them.

They create recreational opportunities for the residents and support them. They also make cheap living much more enjoyable with great art murals, beautification of the building and a social room to share and receive visitors.

As the Rebeccas said, more housing like this will be needed in the future.

I believe it is so important to give people self-worth and make them feel good about how and where they live and this project appears to tick all the positive and life-changing boxes. Well done!

Roel Loopers


Posted in fremantle by freoview on September 25, 2014

The Western Australian state government today announced the planned sale of 20 parcels of land at an estimated sales price of $ 250 million. In the Fremantle area this include the former Police Station in Henderson Street, the Kaleeya Hospital  and Woodside Maternity Hospital sites, and the Potato Marketing Corporation HQ at North Coogee.

The sale of the heritage-listed Police Station is a bit of a worry and should come with development conditions, and the money from the sale should be directed straight toward the renovation of the Warders Cottages. We have yet to see any progress in the announced $ 2 million restoration of the historic cottages which have been an eyesore for years.

Member for Fremantle Simone McGurk said: “It is absolutely essential that the Barnett Government ensure that the profits from these sales are re-invested in Fremantle, and not in far-flung vanity projects. There are any number of Fremantle projects in that would be worthy, and in fact are urgent, recipients.

It’s vital that any sale of the Fremantle Police Station and Woodside Hospital ensures that the heritage values of the buildings are maintained. Profits from the sale of Fremantle Police Station could be used right next door to restore the Warders’ Cottages. Six months ago, the Premier and the Heritage Minister announced a $2 million heritage fund to restore the Warders’ Cottages, yet nothing has been done.  

The closure of Kaleeya Hospital as a public facility is a blow to the wider Fremantle community, particularly because it provided intimate and uncomplicated birthing services to expecting mothers. It appears that the site will continue to be used as a hospital, which is welcome news, but of course a private facility is not available for the whole community.”

Roel Loopers


Posted in fremantle by freoview on September 25, 2014

It looks like the Labor Party is keen to infiltrate local government and start using their political power at community grassroots level. On October 23 there will be a Labor Council Connect workshop in the large caucus room at Parliament House with shadow minister for local government David Templeman as guest speaker.

It is about training for local government, building relationships between Labor councillors, and “working through local government to see the ideals,platform and policies of WA Labor applied and realised at local community level.”

I believe it should concern us if political parties want to make local council decisions based on party politics. One would need to question if good local governance would still be possible if Councillors voted against an agenda item simply because it was proposed by an Elected Member from an opposing party.

One of the things I can’t stand in state and federal parliaments, apart from child-like behaviour during question time, is that parties as a matter of course won’t support anything that is proposed by a rival party. That to me is not good governance. I don’t believe the constituents are represented well when the party in opposition simply says no to anything proposed by government and vice versa.

Here in Fremantle we don’t seem to be getting much of party based decision-making, but some of it is no doubt influenced by e.g. the Greens focus on sustainability, bike infrastructure and higher density living.

I don’t know the political alliance of all members but it is known that Deputy Mayor Josh Wilson and Dave Hulme are Labor members, Bill Massie is Liberal, Mayor Brad Pettitt, Rachel Pemberton and Andrew Sullivan are Greens and Ingrid Waltham was one, and Sam Wainwright is with the Socialist Alliance. I could make a guess about the other Councillors, but that would be inappropriate.

For me party policy should stay out of local government, because members at local councils have the ideal opportunity to closely represent their community, much more than at federal and state level where one is supposed to vote along party lines.

Roel Loopers


Posted in fremantle by freoview on September 22, 2014

It is interesting to read the comments by Housing Minister Bill Marmion that “High density public housing can foster well-documented social problems.” It is even more interesting in the context to the State Government’s 2031 papers that demand that local governments introduce more high-density housing. Fremantle and all local councils of course have to oblige, but there are big challenges.

Does the minister believe anti-social behaviour in high-rise residential buildings only happens when low-income earners occupy the apartments?

The anonymity of living in high-rise buildings has created problems all over the world because many people believe they can get away with excessive noise, dumping rubbish from upper levels, etc.

While there are many environmental and economic advantages to high-density living, it requires a high level of consideration, courtesy and tolerance to make it work. I lived for ten years in a small complex of seven townhouses in Swanbourne Street, and the noise created by some neighbours drove me to the edge many times.

But life in the burbs can be challenging anyway. Two new dogs moved into the neighbourhood just over my back fence last week and the little one is yapping constantly while the old one next door to it keeps responding. Maybe it’s time for me to move on again and find more considerate neighbours.

Unbelievable to read that it takes on average 152 weeks before someone can move into a Homeswest home. That is nearly three years!

Roel Loopers


Posted in city of fremantle by freoview on September 21, 2014

In an interview about PARK(ing) day on WA Today Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said that the heart of the city should be for people and that parking should be on the periphery. I wonder how many inner city traders agree with that philosophy, that appears to want to make the CBD into a car-free shopping centre.

My problem with some of the sustainability philosophy is that it seems to replace reality. And I am not the only one, as newspapers are full with letters where people complain about the lack of common sense of their local councils.

Sustainability is the new bible for a few, the new religion, and like most religions it attracts righteous zealots who tell us we’ll end up in sustainability hell unless we do what we’re told. These sustainability fundamentalists do not want to hear any arguments because it is their way or the highway. They know what is best for us, so the community will simply have to change their lifestyle and follow the belief of the sustainability church. Forget God, Allah and the reverend Fred Nile, the Lord of sustainability is more powerful than anyone and only his teachings are right and relevant to this new world.

Parking in the inner city? Come off it, people can park on the outskirts and walk into town, or hop on public transport. You want car bays at new residential, office and hotel development? You must be kidding. What’s wrong with hopping on a bike, walking or using trains and busses? (Interesting to note in that regard that the WAPC is considering changing the rules and demanding a minimum number of parking bays at new buildings).

According to the new religion people don’t need to have a car, no matter how old or disabled they are or that they have a family. Everyone should just join the happy sustainability congregation that is more concerned about the environment tomorrow than the people today. In CUSP they believe.

It does not matter to them that what Freo’s 30,000 residents do is less than a drop of water in all the earth’s oceans and that the real environmental efforts should be coming from the powerful industrial and over-populated nations. Stick that argument in a plastic back to take home. Oh, I forgot, you are no longer allowed to use plastic bags in good old Freo, or should that be renamed Sustainability Heaven. Time to stop plastic bottles as well, as a US city just implemented?

We are dealing with a PR spin machine that doesn’t like green, but it loves a good bit of bitumen and concrete. They replace public green open spaces with vertical hanging gardens, so unless your children are monkeys they really have no grass to play on. They plan for high-density buildings but not for public spaces. They want more people to live and work in the CBD, but don’t plan for relaxation, lingering nodes, playgrounds, picnic and BBQ spots, and grass to kick a footy on.

But hey, that’s progress and economic development for you, because all those people deprived of inner city car bays will spend a lot more time walking through the city and that will be good for the economy, because what else can they do but shopping and having lunch.

We must assume that drones will then fly our sustainability-approved, soy latte, free-range, gluten-free, organic, degradable shopping bags to our cars that are parked some kilometres away on the periphery, but that is not something our forward looking council has thought about much yet. And to paraphrase Treasurer Joe Hocking, old and disabled people don’t go out a lot anyway, so why should COF be concerned about their parking needs. As for kids, home detention replaces nature play for  generation ME.

The future of the progressive city of Fremantle will be a lot of irate and unhappy people living in a healthy environment. Freo could become a ghost town for bike-hugging sandal lovers, as shoppers will stay away in droves, but that’s life. One person’s hell is someone else’s heaven. Halleluja and amen, or whatever they say in that new religion.

For the record, I believe that looking after the environment is essential and extremely important. I know that everyone means well, but I can’t stand dogmatism, hence my sarcasm, for which I apologise right now.

The point I am making is that it might be better for my health for me to become a vegetarian and teetotaller and exercise more, but I don’t want anyone to force me to that, and the same applies to all the above. Do not force your lifestyle and belief upon others. Your exorcism will be wasted on me.

Roel Loopers





Posted in architecture, fremantle by freoview on September 21, 2014

It is promising to read in the Sunday Times today that the Western Australian Planning Commission is considering changing the laws on high-density buildings. This is the result of many local governments and communities complaining that out of character dwellings are being erected in older suburbs like Fremantle.

The WAPC considerations would see a minimum number of car bays per home, which is contrary to the no car bays at all at some new residential and commercial buildings and hotels the City of Fremantle wants.

There would also be a limit on the number of units that can be built in high-density buildings if the WAPC changes go ahead.

It sounds like good common sense to me. The unique character of the older suburbs needs to be protected because they are the main reference to our past and part of our history.



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