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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.