Freo's View

HUGE COUNCIL EVE FOR BIG FREO CHANGES

Posted in fremantle by freoview on February 16, 2012

The City of Fremantle Planning and Services Committee, chaired by councillor Andrew Sullivan, dealt mainly with Planning Scheme Amendment 49 in a mammoth five hour session on Wednesday evening. Over 35 speakers addressed the committee.

It went on for long and so many point were raised, that it is easier on the eyes to report this in dot points, but some small changes were put forward by councillors, one significant one by councillor Sullivan, who wants an additional storey on site 1, the Woolstores block. Mayor Brad Pettitt said he would not support this when it goes to full council. There were also suggestions to change heights on other buildings, but most were cosmetic rather than significant changes, which is disappointing.

What was also disappointing is that most of the public speakers did leave chambers and did not stay to listen to what councillors had to say. Only a handful stayed and shared pizzas and drinks with the committee after the very long session. I was one who believed councillors deserved to be listened to after they has listened to the public.

Here is what some of the many speakers had to say:

* Keith O’Brien believed the lack of design criteria and building guideines is a major concern.

*Brian Mitchell of the Chamber of Commerce spoke “on behalf of the silent apathetic majority” about his vision that people could walk to just about everywhere from where they live, and for that to be achieved Fremantle needs more density.

* David Hawks of the Fremantle Society said the council had no mandate for PSA 49 and that the Woolstores would be too high and that more than 500 people signed the FS petition against the planning scheme.

* Tim Milson, CEO of Chamber of Commerce, told the meeting Freo desperately needs more residents, workers and shoppers, but acknowledged the proposed heights are aggressive, but more people will mean less anti social behaviour.

*Henty Farrar, vice president of the Fremantle Society, said he was optimistic, but urged council not to stuff it up. He believes couuncil has a lot of foresight and PSA 49 could be quite a good amendment if changes are made to it. He wanted to make sure Lot 11 at Kings Square would remain a recreation site and not built on. “You are walking down the right track”.

*Bruce Moriarty told the meeting that Fremantle needs more people, and that the broader community says it’s time for change, and that PSA 49 will encourage private investment and development.

*Don Whittington of the Fremantle Society claimed that the Mayor and councillor Sullivan wanted nine storeys from the start and no matter what had been said they had not moved a metre. He believes heights on many sites are too high, and that PSA 49 has the potential for over 20 buildings in the inner city to be higher than Johnston Court.

*Ra Stewart, President of the Chamber of Commerce said that people will breathe life into the city and therefore a new built environment is desired, and compromises will have to be made.

*Adele Gaskin spoke passionately about the opportunity the city has to develop the former Port Cineaste site at Princess May Park, that revitalisation not necessarily means redevelopment. Existing buildings should be refurbished, not demolished, and the greenest buildings are those already there.

*Helen Hewitt was looking for a more positive future with a lot more people and that PSA 49 is a big dream for the city.

*Dianne Davidson told the meeting she moved to Fremantle 35 years ago because it was a place with human scale, and that she is concerned about COF officers who see Freo as nothing special because they don’t live here. If that culture continues Fremantle is doomed, she warned.

*The consultant to EG Funds Management, the Woolstores owners, expressed strong support for PSA 49 and that development of the site will depend on the outcome of it. Affordable housing was a community concern and should not only burden a few landowners, and the current proposals are the absolute minimum and height on site 1 should be increased.

*Ron Davidson of the Fremantle History Society said it was not true that the new developments would be far away from heritage buildings, and that council should move more carefully.

*Rob Delves of the Greens said everyone was in favour of sustainable high and medium density and that the only footprint that matters is the individual footprint. Quality was more important than  height, and that affordable housing would remain a problem unless going higher. Fremantle can’t live in isolation and all suburbs do have a responsibility.

*Paul Loring questioned where the vision is. It is completely missing, he said, and that the process was all wrong.

*A Notre Dame student mentioned that change was inevitable and Fremantle risks being left behind because the world is moving rapidly. There needed to be a compromise to create a great vibrancy and cosmopolitan feeling in the city.

*Robert Bodkin, shoe shop owner, agreed Freo needs more people but doubted they would shop here. He also asked why no one talked about affordable rental for retailers.

*Helen Grey-Smith spoke on behalf of Adele Carles and warned about the Development Assesment Panel, which had overruled a substandard development in Bayswater, which council and residents did not want. Freo needs to listen to the warnings and tighten PSA 49!

*Kieran Wong, architect at CODA, said it was all about a sense of place and he wholeheartedly supported PSA 49, and commended the city for the proposal. For tranparency reasons Kieran should have revealed his company is currently contracted to the City of Fremantle as consultant for the Cantonment Hill development. Chairman Sullivan should have picked that up and noted it in the minutes of the meeting!

*Lloyd Hammond said PSA 49 represents a huge portion of area in the inner city and that there is no overarching planning strategy for Fremantle, but an overall lack of vision.

*Emma Williamson supported the scheme because the city is dying. People are the blood that flows and connects all the body that is Fremantle. She said cities are made up of layers that tell the stories of the time, and that we should focus on quality outcome.

*Joe O’Keefe asked why no development money would be set aside to beautify other areas like Phillimore Street and that there was a lack of public space. Pioneer Park was not a place where people go to kick the footy.

*John Dowson, former councillor, was disappointed the Greens say human scale does not matter because he used to vote for them. He believes that fundamentally the process has been disappointing with pre-determined outcome and pro height. You are not representing the views of the community! It was time to raise the bar, not the height.

*Ivan Dzeba of Benny’s said there was no need to water down the scheme as it stands, and the elected members did have a mandate to make decisions.

*Emma Powell of FICRA spoke with passion about the local identity code having been ignored, and that the scheme allows to built higher without having to adhere to the building excellence criteria.

*Shirley Burbidge of the Fremantle Heritage Guides said tourists visiting the Round House love Fremantle for its uniqueness, and that the city has got something special and it needs to stay special.

*Cathy Hall of the Fremantle Society spoke at length about inner city lifestyle and that council needs to hold their nerve. PSA 49 might only increase the wealth of several landowners, she warned.

*Chris Lewis said PSA 49 must go ahead because it makes good sense. It gives flexibility if and when developers come forward with proposals.

After the many public presentations, the meeting then finally moved on to the committee debating changes to the amendment.

Councillor Bill Massie said council is representing the wider community views and we must move forward. He said council should increase heights, not decrease them, but Mayor Brad Pettitt said he could only support up to nine storeys and not higher.

Councillor Ingrid Waltham said it was not about low buildings but about better buildings, while councillor Andrew Sullivan promoted more height for the Woolstores site.

CouncillorAndrew Sullivan put doom and gloom on the evening by claiming if Fremantle does not develop rapidly in the next five years, decline will become catastrophic. There needs to be balance between the utopia we might like Fremantle to be and reality, he said.

Submissions were made by several councillors but I won’t go into detail about that, as most will be addressed again at full council meeting in a few weeks, which will decide which amendments to PSA 49 will be made, if any.

It was good to see so much passion from all the different sides and interest groups, and also good to see this happened in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Most people attending the meeting last night want the best for Fremantle. That gives us a lot of common ground to work from and to get it right to make Freo an even better place.

Roel Loopers

6 Responses

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  1. Tim said, on February 17, 2012 at 9:54 am

    “view corridor between Monument Hill and the West End” Isnt that a ROAD??

  2. john Dowson said, on February 17, 2012 at 12:15 am

    Well written Roel. The meeting was to assess the community submissions but councillors did not do that. They ignored that fact that on the height issue 87% of those commenting on height were against the heights proposed. Only 13% supported the heights, so the amendment should have been scrapped or radically altered. It wasn’t. Below is what I said on the night (sorry it’s rather long):

    Councillors and staff have patiently listened to many presentations tonight concerning the scheme amendment 49.

    One was from Ryan, a student at Notre Dame University, who wanted Council to get on and build high rise. He failed to mention that the University of Notre Dame, which now earns more than the City of Fremantle, has brought over 6,500 students to Fremantle without needing anything above three storeys.

    Robert, from the Fremantle Greens Party, extolled high density, high rise living near train stations and painted a picture for me of Hong Kong style living. I used to vote for the Greens because I thought they had sensible environmental policies.

    Tim Milson from the Chamber of Commerce said Fremantle would be left behind if we didn’t build high rise. He should visit Subiaco, where developers have gone gangbusters with 3 and 4 storey commercial buildings.

    Architect Kieran Wong said it was naïve to talk about human scale in terms of height, but magical places like Paris fiercely control height to protect just that, their human scale.

    I agree with Paul Loring who expressed dismay at the process of this amendment.

    In spite of the misleading advertising, constant false statements, and lack of useful 3D modelling by Council during the consultation phase, the public submissions clearly show that people do not want the heights proposed by Council.

    87% of submissions concerning height are against the heights proposed, with only 13% for.

    Council therefore has no mandate from the community and did not have one at the last two elections either. No candidate for election, in particular the mayor, told the community before the elections they were going back to the bad old days, when Peter Newman and others pushed a 9 storey approval through Council for Alcoa, against the wishes of the community.

    Surely a fundamental role of councillors is to represent the community. Don’t say that the number of submissions does not represent the community. The ratio is 7 to 1 against the scheme amendment. And, my many hours of manning the Fremantle Society model outside Woolworths in Adelaide Street has shown me that well over 90% of people there oppose the heights proposed.

    Please councillors concentrate on other incentives rather than height.

    1) Fix the parking mess.

    2) Get rid of the deadbeats plaguing our city.

    3) Sell the Council owned Point Street block at a discounted price to get development and revitalisation going.

    4) Promote the many GOOD things about Fremantle.

    Two issues concern me:

    a) Nowhere in the discussions I have seen have I seen reference to the West End Conservation Policy- a major statutory policy of Council which covers sites in or adjacent to most of the sites in the proposed amendment. It is a major and long standing policy of Council designed to help protect the character of the areas covered. It is a statutory instrument of Council recognised by bodies like the SAT.
    b) Equally disturbing is the total lack of mention of the fact that Fremantle has a World Heritage site right in its midst and that high rise proposals, particularly on sites 9, 10a and 10b, are within a few metres of twenty two 1850 convict built cottages that are part of the original Convict Establishment. Ironically, it looks like Access Housing may be spending $20 to $30 million restoring those cottages. That’s real revitalisation while Council talks.
    c) (Emma Powell covered the fact that the valuable Local Identity Codes which Council paid over $100,000 for, have not been used in the revitalisation process)

    In 2004 Professor Geoffrey London, currently head of Council’s Design Advisory Committee wrote in the Herald: “There is a sense of coherence of built form in Fremantle largely through scale, texture, and materials….A place like Fremantle could actively promote high quality contemporary architecture, offer awards for it, require competitions for buildings over a certain value to ensure the best possible design outcome.”

    We should be trying to lift standards as suggested, and the Council should be trying to work with the community instead of against it. We all want Fremantle to be better.

    Raise the bar but not the heights.

  3. Andrew Sullivan said, on February 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Thanks Roel for a fair record of the night. With 35 public speakers over two and half hours, it was great to see almost everyone was on the same page about the aim of Amendment 49 even though the detail remains hotly debated.

    I was so impressed by the thoughtfulness of so many of the speakers and the respect shown in allowing each speaker to have their say uninterrupted – nothing useful would have been gained by having a slanging match.

    I don’t agree that the changes that have been prgressively made are mere tweeking. The officers had already proposed many important improvements in response to the public submissions and elected members had considerable dialogue through four workshops in January where the detail of the submissions was considered.

    The refinements include a quarantine on the discretionary heights until such time as the planning policy for the precinct is developed later this year. The CABE principles that define Quality Design have been incorporated in the proposed scheme text and the permanent role of the Design Advisory Committee is to mandated in the scheme. The Town Hall site has lost its discretionary height and the heights along Henderson Mall have been confirmed at 3 storeys. Additional requirements have been added to make it clearer that new buildings will have to be designed so as to be compatable with surround heritage buildings and precincts. There were many more changes that were summarised on pages 47-49 of the PSC Agenda.

    Councillors added to that long list of refinements by improving the protection of the view corridor between Monument Hill and the West End. Heights in Josephson Street and around the Victorian Terraces in Point Street were lowered.

    As you pointed out, I did propose an amendment to allow for an additional storey on the Woolstores Shopping Centre site (Site 1). I believe passionately that this site can accommodate some taller, but slender structures of upto 12 storeys, albeit my proposal was to go to only 10 storeys. This Site 1 is aptly named as I believe it is the most important development site in Fremantle. It is at the gateway to the City being directly opposite Fremantle Station. It is at the point where Queen Street, destined to be our premiere commercial street, intersects with the station forecourt which will one day be as important as Kings Square. The buildings on Site 1 need to respond to the station forecourt in the same way that the Town Hall does to Kings Square.

    The owner of Site 1, EG Funds, has already demonstrated through their early concept sketchs, that sensitively designed 10 storey development on a plinth that is primarily 5-6 storeys high (identical to the Woolstore that once stood there) can make a constructive contribution to how that whole area is revitalised. I want our community to offer that developer the chance to produce the exceptional architecture that I know Fremantle deserves.

    The truth is that if Council continues to chip away at the number of storeys we permit, we will actually get no redevelopment at all. No development means a continuation of the steady decline and risks sending the commercial centre of Fremantle into a free-fall that we will never recover from. As was aptly said by one of the speakers, there’s no point talking about human scale if the place is void of any humans. There is also no point in making the rules of the game so unattractive that no one turns up to play.

    Thanks for keeping the dialogue alive Roel

  4. Pattaya Murai said, on February 16, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Dear Roel, I want to write to you to congratulate you on a bit of outstanding journalism. Okay, now my 2c! It breaks my heart to hear so many GOOD people saying that the PSA 49 somehow offends human scale or Fremantle identity! The city centre which is not the west end, has TERRIBLE human scale and character. It is full of LONG city blocks with low activation and permeability. I went to Woolies and saw the model provided by the Fremantle society and I love it! THE FREO SOCIETY SHOULD DEFINITELY HAVE A PETITION FOR THOSE WHO SUPPORT THE PSA. Then we can see a truly fair petition.

  5. Tim Milsom said, on February 16, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Roel thanks for minuting down all the important points much appreciated also it was good to have a bit of fun last night (I am sure common sense will prevail in the end) Tim Milsom

  6. Emma Anda said, on February 16, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Wow Roel, thanks for going to the trouble to summarise so many different people’s thoughts, concerns, and hopes, that was really interesting to read for me as I wasn’t at the meeting. Five hours, my god, what a marathon time for a meeting! Pizza at the end must have been lovely!


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