Freo's View

FREO SOCIETY NOT HAPPY WITH WEST END HERITAGE PRECINCT

Posted in city of fremantle, heritage by freoview on February 1, 2016

Arthur Head

 

Fremantle Society president John Dowson has called for a public meeting on February 11 about the proposed State Heritage listing for the West End Heritage Precinct. The meeting will be at Kidogot Arthouse on Bathers Beach and starts at 7 pm.

Dowson writes in his email to FS members that Fremantle council chopped in half the precinct proposed by the West End Working Group, a group made up of members of the community, business and experts. Dowson wrote that the committee recommended to Council to include the whole area including Kings Square be listed, but that appears to be incorrect.

The West End Working Group was given two options, surprisingly neither included Arthur Head and the state’s oldest public building the Roundhouse, and the WEWG decided to recommend to Council to adopt Option 1 with boundaries at Market Street/South Terrace and not Option 2 that went further and included Kings Square as far as Queens Street and Newman Court.

The option recommended by the WE Working Group was unanimously voted for at full Council meeting on September 25, 2013 and subsequently accepted as the area by the State Heritage Office which is now investigating to consider to ask State Government to include the Freo West End Heritage Precinct on the State Register of Heritage Places.

The State Heritage Office and I have made several attempts to talk to each other but have not been successful so far, so will call them back again later today.

I would specifically like to know why Arthur Head is not included in the present proposal.

Roel Loopers

15.45 pm update: I have talked to the State Heritage office and added a comment in the comment box in reply to John Dowson’s comment, so please click there.

 

16 Responses

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  1. Andrew Sullivan said, on February 4, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    Naturally, when you change your statement to “popping out AND around the West End” in lieu of the original statement of “popping out around the West End” it can be read quite differently – I think some people would have assumed you were saying 7-11 storey buildings were going to be built in the West End itself.

    Suffice to say I presume you are arguing that any taller buildings (using your 7 – 11 definition) in the greater definition of the West End are problematic from a conservation perspective. I tend to agree with your perspective, noting again that the Port Authority building falls outside of that area. From memory, there is only one site in the greater West End where such a building might be possible under the current scheme and that is on the former Gas and Coke site. That site has a five storey capacity at the street edge with taller buildings set back and the possibility of more again with design excellence etc. However, there is also built into the requirements for that site a requirement that any proposal is to be carefully modelled against the adjoining Wesley Church precinct of buildings. I expect that great care will have to be taken to carefully graduate from the Wesley Church and Manse proportions and scale while also permitting taller elements along Queen Street towards the rail station. On this site the maximum height with all bonuses is 8 storeys. The highest building allowable, being the 11 storey tower your refer to could only realistically be built on the woolstores shopping centre site.

    I know we will have to agree to disagree that this scale of development is acceptable anywhere in Fremantle, but care has been taken to keep that scale well away from the West End precinct. In any case, we are really going over old ground that was settled years ago. Changing the boundaries of the West End area to be listed will not change the planning scheme now.

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  2. Agnieshka Kiera said, on February 4, 2016 at 11:14 am

    There was no mistake in my comments Andrew, please read again: ‘Once the 7-11 story developments start popping out and around the West End as facilitated by the revised LPS4 …..’. I also am of the view that despite your frequently verbally expressed commitment to heritage, your actual actions demonstrate just the opposite. So I am sure that should you have considered that Fremantle needs several Port Authority towers encircling the West End, you would be the first one to skilfully pushed it through the statutory channels regardless of heritage and policy considerations.

    I also wish you have returned the favour and respond on the topic. Because I actually posed a couple of questions at the end of my response and it would have been really interesting to read your unemotional and factual response.

    Respectfully yours

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  3. freoview said, on February 3, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    I agree with you, Andrew. It is sad that John Dowson is so Black&White and can’t see the grey areas of anything. He has an almost dyslexic approach to issues and wants everything to be against Fremantle Council as the enemy. And of course it has to be done by grandstanding in the Herald every week. That for me personally has diminished my respect for John who has done a lot for the preservation of heritage in Freo, but his negativity and anti-development makes him too blinkered and narrow-minded for me to support him and it is to the detriment of the Fremantle Society and all the important issues that we need to talk about.
    John has been behaving like a rich spoilt single child who will only ever accept his own stands and never compromises and that is disappointing. I believe that made him a rather unsuccessful councillor.

    Roel

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  4. Andrew Sullivan said, on February 3, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    I always enjoy reading AK’s comments because she presents her arguments in a thoroughly well considered way and typically stays on topic. We respectfully agree to disagree on some of the detail and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    In the above comment, I think AK has slipped up where she suggests that we will soon see 7 to 11 storey buildings in the West End. I presume she actually meant to say “East End” in that sentence rather than “West End”. No one, BUT NO ONE, is contemplating permitting high rise buildings in the West End. Even with the broadest definition of the West End (say one that includes Kings Square and the railway station precincts) the current scheme provisions will not allow that to happen.

    There are a few sites in the north eastern part of the town centre where taller buildings are permitted, but they are not within any of the key heritage precincts. Like the location of the Port Authority building, some sites can accommodate extra height in a way that does not compromise the cohesive character of the heritage precincts. Indeed, the Port Authority building has become an integral part of the heritage of that precinct.

    This is a time when we should be celebrating the fact that we are about to see the West End state heritage listed. Sadly, we are going to see this issue, and others, turn into the typically Freo over-heated stoush that we are sadly famous for – there is after all a mayoral election coming up next year.

    From the comments above, we are witnessing the return of the Dowson agenda in local politics. John has now secured his platform as the President of the Fremantle Society in typically controversial and divisive circumstances. The new committee want to get their man, Don, elected as Mayor and so we will be hearing a lot of these types of conspiracy complaints from John D from now on.

    As can be seen in this instance, John’s typical approach is to trawl through the past processes for snippets in time that can be cherry-picked and presented in such a way as to argue the process was flawed or somehow corrupted. It would be far more interesting and constructive if he engaged meaningfully. He could be discussing the subtleties of the different approaches to matters like the defining the boundaries of the West End for listing, as Roel started out to do in this blog. Sadly, the chance for sensible debate is typically hijacked by John’s very unsuccessful approach to local politics. The sad thing is we are all 95% on the same page but that will never be good enough for the likes of John.

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  5. Agnieshka Kiera said, on February 2, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    The Heritage Council has to assess what has been nominated. So if Fremantle Council has nominated only part of the historic town centre, this is what the Heritage Council will assess. It is required by the Act to assess the nomination supported, no doubt, by a professional heritage evaluation report. Heritage Council is also obliged to consult all owners in the area and invite and consider public comments in order to determine what area should be enlisted and recommend it to the Minister for listing. In theory Heritage Council should be focused on the heritage significance alone. But I have no doubt that, being a bureaucratic body of the State Government, in the state where development culture prevails, the Heritage Council would be inclined to make an expedient rather than an optimal decision. This is what it has already demonstrated many times in the past. When heritage listing is supported, the Heritage Council goes with it. If it is controversial the Heritage Council finds a way to get easy on its own requirements and compromise.

    This is why the owners’ and community’s submissions are so important for the Fremantle Heritage Area. The Heritage Council will have to take public submissions into consideration in determining its recommendations to the Minister regarding the boundaries of the listed area. We have done it before – the awareness and community commitment to protecting Fremantle’s heritage is exceptional in the WA context. To date the Council’s facilitated development it had hoped for hasn’t happened yet, as with the exception of Attwell Arcade and the hotel in Queen Victoria Street, the dreaded high raise developments in the so called East End i.e. outside the West End, haven’t yet taken off. So this is one in 100 years opportunity to get the future of Fremantle right. Once the 7-11 story developments start popping out around the West End as facilitated by the revised LPS4, the intact and unique port city we still have, could become a West End pimple on the otherwise ‘modern’ yet heartless urban landscape of the transformed city centre – a mishmash of big and small, good and bad, attractive and ugly. Anything but the Fremantle we treasure and kept developing slowly but harmoniously to date.

    So I do hope that the public meeting called by Fremantle Society would provide a forum for discussion what area of Fremantle the community would want to include on the state heritage. This could become means to get the kind of development that community wants and Fremantle deserves rather than what is generic, standardized and imposed. And if the community would not support an adequate protection of its heritage …. well, it will deserve the city, which no doubt will eventually get redeveloped in accordance with the political choices of the day. Not necessarily well intentioned or informed.

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  6. freoview said, on February 2, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Thank you very much Agnieshka. It is so important that the community will get to hear all sides of the process as it is very complex.

    What I do not understand yet if the Heritage Council can decide alternative boundaries than suggested by the City of Fremantle, or if the whole process would have to go back to the drawing board.

    Roel

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  7. Agnieshka Kiera said, on February 2, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    Well Roel, congratulations. You have incited timely, interesting and important discussion. Being personally involved in the original WEWG, I can’t resist to respond to Andrew’s comments with few points of further clarification:

    * the original i.e. 2010 WEWG never considered inclusion of the Convict Establishment in the revised boundaries. On the contrary, it concluded that Convict Establishment wasn’t an integral part of the historic town centre.

    *the heritage evaluation of the nominated area wasn’t about what you describe as the ‘most people’s current or historical definition of the ‘West End’. The Heritage Council’s nomination process requires quite a rigorous professional evaluation of the heritage values of an area in order to define and justify its boundaries on the grounds of heritage significance. The popular opinion may be considered as an expression of the area’s social value, but this in itself is insufficient to determine legitimacy of the boundaries. Fremantle has a legitimate pre-existing heritage determination and a planning instrument i.e. West End Conservation Policy that has provided a base for reviewing heritage significance of the historic Fremantle Town Centre (as you rightly suggest could have described the area better than the West End Conservation Area). Yet the political decision to pick up just one of five zones of the historic centre was just that: an arbitrary political decision. It had nothing to do with the State Heritage Register’s nomination process.

    * it appears that when a politician runs out of objective arguments he resorts to the derogatory emotional statements (dysfunctional working group …. corrupt the definition …). The original WEWG was set up in accordance with the legitimate Instrument of Appointment and proceeded in accordance with the statutory heritage evaluation process and as such was also endorsed by the Heritage Council. It seems to me that if anything it was the subsequent replacement group set up in 2011 that might have been ‘somewhat dysfunctional and corrupt’ as its members were picked up arbitrarily by some ambiguous process (for eg. in response to public invitation in March 2011 John Dowson’s nomination was the only one received on time for the community representative, yet it was dismissed regardless and other people whose nominations might have been received by other than a public response means, were appointed instead). To me your statement: ‘the Council has stuck to its original promise so it can actually deliver an outcome that others have failed to achieve in the past’ reads as if the Council has disregarded the statutory process, dismissed the outcomes of the first legitimate WEWG and pushed through it’s political objective regardless of the statutory requirements and due heritage considerations.

    * while I respect your personal, generalised views on what the listing and character of a heritage area might mean, there is an objective process defined under the Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990, that is required for a nomination to undergo to be legitimately considered by the Heritage Council [ultimately by the Minister] in order to be enlisted on the State Heritage Register. A heritage area doesn’t have to be packed with the individually listed buildings. On the contrary, a heritage area may not include any individually listed buildings if its overall significance warrants the relevant heritage recognition, for example the Tasmanian Port Arthur. While the assessment of heritage value is not a black and white science, the prescribed statutory process aims at reducing political manipulation and subjectivity of a registration procedure i.e. ensuring that it is as objective as possible in respect of heritage values of the listed places. I would be interested to know if the second group has made a heritage re-evaluation of the significance of the demoted West End boundaries? You yourself refer to the area as the historic Fremantle Town Centre yet I can’t recall any 19th century historic city around the world, where the surviving, intact Town Hall, built on the originally planned and duly laid out town square to represent a city’s municipal status, has been excluded from heritage listing of the town centre. Yet this is exactly what the Council is trying to push through. Why?

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  8. Andrew Sullivan said, on February 2, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Under the Local Government Act, the role of any working group is to delve into and provide advise on strategic matters but it can never be a decision making body. Only the Council is empowered to make decisions and it must have due regard to the full range of facts, reports and submissions. In this instance, the relevant information considered by Council included the work and findings of the WEWG as well as input from external consultants and internal staff.

    As I recall, there were concerns at the time that some members of the WEWG were prone to stray from the powers provided to it and were keen on considering a very broad area for listing, one that included the Convict Establishment (prison areas); the King Square percents, the Railway Station and the Arthur Head precinct. While some of those areas could be considered to form part of the precinct defined as the “West End” (as Roel has reasonably done in querying Arthur Head), it is also very reasonably argued that places such as the prison, Kings Square and the railway station do not fall within most people’s current or the historical definition of the “West End”.

    Agnieshka Kiera notes above that the West End Conservation Area Policy “includes several zones of distinct character”. Indeed it does, it includes five definable precincts including the one named “The West End”. This is obviously confusing because the overarching name of the policy (i.e it suggests that the West End is a precinct within the greater area also known as the West End???) . The policy should have been named something like the Conservation Policy for the Fremantle Town Centre.

    In that policy, “The West End” is very clearly defined as “…the area bounded by Little High Street (west), Collie Street (south), Market Street (east) and the railway line to the north.” Under Brad Pettitt’s leadership, this Council committed itself to pursuing the long and tedious task of seeking a State heritage listing for “The West End” precinct. While the somewhat dysfunctional working group tried to corrupt the definition, the Council has stuck to its original promise so it can actually deliver an outcome that others have failed to achieved in the past.

    Many of the buildings in the West End are already protected through individual state heritage listings. There are also numerous ways in which development in the area is appropriately restricted by a suite of planning and heritage provisions in the Local Planning Scheme and policies developed over many decades. The listing of the precinct will add some important but fairly subtle strength to how this area is conserved.

    The vast majority of state heritage listings are for individual buildings (places) rather than precincts. Listing of precincts is rare and usually reserved for areas that consist of a very well defined collection of buildings unspoilt by significant loss of buildings or unsympathetic infill, i.e. where it is the elements of significance that still largely define the character of the place (or more simply, the collection set overall hasn’t been ruined by having lost so many elements that it no longer reads like a collection). Importantly, the area to be considered for listing needs to be a clearly definable as a precinct.

    While it is understandably tempting to pull in areas surrounding the West End, that approach would in fact significantly lessen the strength of the case for precinct listing. Over many years, there has been a lot of pontification about listing the West End as a precinct – this Council is set to finally achieve that outcome as promised.

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  9. Mark said, on February 2, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    It’s indeed concerning if this minutes are not correct or that perhaps the info was altered before going to council that would be a serious issue for the minister office for local Government

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  10. freoview said, on February 2, 2016 at 10:37 am

    The minutes of September 25, 2013 clearly state that the recommendation before council was that of the WEWG. If the WEWG was influenced by the Mayor or other elected members or officers to change the boundaries then they are responsible for it.

    Here from the minutes:

    Officer comment on the Working Group’s recommendations
    Recommendation 1
    Officers support the recommendation of the WEWG that the area referred to as the West End sub-precinct in the report prepared by the heritage consultants (see plan above) is the appropriate area to be nominated for possible entry into the State Register.
    This area is the precinct traditionally referred to as the West End, and it has a distinct townscape with narrower street widths and smaller street block and lot sizes than the parts of the original town east of Market Street (referred to in the consultants’ report as the Kings Square sub-precinct). This is recognised in the consultants’ report, which states that whilst the two sub-precincts are historically closely linked, the area east of Market Street has a slightly different character reflected in the changing streetscapes and built form of this area.
    To a large extent, the cultural heritage significance of the West End (as defined in the sub-precinct) derives from it being a largely intact precinct of mainly gold-rush period buildings which had strong associations with the activities of the port up to about the 1970s. Some buildings are significant in their own right for demonstrating particular
    Page 39
    Minutes – Ordinary Meeting of Council
    Wednesday 25 September 2013
    aesthetic and historic values, but on the whole they are significant for the contribution that they make to the cohesive physical form of the public realm of the precinct.

    and more:

    COMMITTEE AND OFFICER’S RECOMMENDATION/COUNCIL DECISION MOVED: Cr A Sullivan
    1. That Council adopt the area identified as the West End Sub-precinct on the plan below as the area preferred by the City of Fremantle for nomination for entry in the State Register of Heritage Places.
    Page 43
    SECONDED: Cr T Grey-Smith CARRIED: 10/0
    Minutes – Ordinary Meeting of Council
    Wednesday 25 September 2013

    2.That the preparation of a Statement of Significance to support nomination of the area referred to in (1) above be completed, for submission to the State Heritage Office with a request for interim registration of this area.
    3.That upon receipt of a response from the State Heritage Office and Heritage Council of WA in relation to the request for interim registration of the West End Sub-precinct, a further report be presented to Council regarding public consultation and a possible agreement between the City and the Heritage Council over management of referrals of proposed works, prior to a decision being made by the Heritage Council and Minister for Heritage on permanent entry of the area in the State Register of Heritage Places.
    For
    Against
    Mayor, Brad Pettitt
    Cr Jon Strachan
    Cr David Hume
    Cr Rachel Pemberton Cr Josh Wilson
    Cr Tim Grey-Smith Cr Sam Wainwright Cr Bill Massie
    Cr Andrew Sullivan Cr Doug Thompson

    Roel

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  11. Lionel said, on February 2, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Roel you don’t mention anywhere in your post you are quoting council minutes so it is a fair assumption that they are your statements – no need to get outraged about that.

    It seems that the dispute centres on the following:

    “The option recommended by the WE Working Group was unanimously voted for at full Council meeting on September 25, 2013 and subsequently accepted as the area by the State Heritage Office which is now investigating to consider to ask State Government to include the Freo West End Heritage Precinct on the State Register of Heritage Places.”

    Two people who clearly were heavily involved with the WEWG dispute this, and claim the actual proposal the WEWG put forward was switched out by the mayor.

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  12. freoview said, on February 2, 2016 at 7:00 am

    My statements as you call them come from the Council Minutes of September 25,2013, so are you claiming those minutes are incorrect?
    The only statement I make is my surprise Arthur Head is not included, everything else is based on the facts in the COF Council minutes.
    If these minutes are doctored you should take that up with the Minister for Local Government, not claiming “my statements” are incorrect.

    Roel

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  13. Agnieshka Kiera said, on February 1, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    You blog’s entry requires clarification, as some of your statements are incorrect. The West End Working Group (WEWG) was established in November 2010 to prepare and oversee the process of nomination of the West End of Fremantle for State Heritage Register. Its membership included at the time two elected members and one representative each of the following: Fremantle Society, Chamber of Commerce, Fremantle Ports, a business operating in the West End, Notre Dame University and two community members with interest in and knowledge of the West End.

    The WEWG’s brief (City of Fremantle, West End Working Group, Project Delegation and Project Objective – SGS1011-11, Nov 2010) defined the area to be investigated and nominated for State Heritage listing as bound by Collin St, Market St, Little High Street and railway line on the north i.e. it excluding Arthur Head and Town Hall. The Senior Management Group of Council, who prepared the Instrument of Appointment and Brief for WEWG, rather arbitrarily decided to include only one zone (West End) of the West End Conservation Area (WECA), which includes several zones of, distinct character and is recognized and protected under the LPS4 (policy D.G.F14). Interestingly the West End under WECA includes the Round House, which is missing from the West End defined in the brief for WEWG. Also, contrary to the brief’s description of the nominated area as ‘the original town centre as laid out in 1829’ (???), the first recorded layout of the city centre surveyed by Chauncey in 1844 stretched out from the Round House (and the first Government precinct around it) to Queen Square, including King Square.
    These idiosyncrasies were discovered during the investigation of the heritage area in accordance with the Heritage Council nomination process, which requires a proper heritage assessment of the nominated area (State Heritage Register: ‘Assessment & Nomination). The Heritage and Conservation Professionals appointed by Council to assist WEWG with preparation of the nomination have concluded that with the exception of the street layout, Round House and the remnants of historic structures on Arthur Head, no evidence of the colonial city centre survives to date. The intact historic port city surviving to date as evidenced jointly by 148 individually listed buildings, the street layout and Arthur Head, is the port city developed during the Gold Boom area. So the boundary of the area to be nominated for State Heritage listing and duly investigated and prepared trough the Heritage Council’s prescribed process, includes Arthur Head, the West End, Kings Square and Railway Station. This was the outcome of the investigation process WEWG went through during its initial two years of operation and it was the only option WEWG put forward in 2012 as its recommendation to Heritage Council. After gaining the Heritage Council’s preliminary approval, the recommendation for nominating the Gold Boom heritage area was subsequently presented to Fremantle Council in November 2012.
    It looks like Fremantle Council sat on the WEWG’s recommendations for a year before disregarding the thoroughly and professionally researched and prepared recommendations and going back to its arbitrarily demoted version. It would be really interesting to find out on what basis Heritage Council has disregarded its own requirements for the nomination process and accepted the demoted version of Fremantle heritage.

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  14. Steve said, on February 1, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    not including Arthurs Head in a historic precinct because it is too old is just plain shit.

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  15. freoview said, on February 1, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    I talked to the Heritage Office just now and they tell me they are at the start of the process, but the reasons other areas of Fremantle might not be included are because the West End heritage precinct as it was proposed by the City of Fremantle is a cohesive gold boom precinct while the other area are different stories on their own, e.g. Arthurs Head is older and pre-dates the gold boom time, while Victoria Quay, St Johns church, townhall, etc. all have their own significance and are already on the register.

    Roel

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  16. john Dowson said, on February 1, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Your report omits the fact that the work of the committee and the expert report were ignored because the mayor personally intervened to get what he wanted ie a smaller listed area. I wrote to all councillors about that in 2012 and sent you a copy (see below). Former council heritage architect and current Fremantle Society committee member Agnieshka Kiera who knows the issue better than anyone will make a statement later today.

    My 2102 letter: Complaint Concerning West End Working Group

    I wish to raise the issue of the item Council officers are putting to Council this week concerning the West End Working Group.

    The West End Working Group was set up to seek Heritage Council listing for the West End.

    The West End is an internationally recognised area of great significance.

    As part of that process a first step was to review the West End Conservation Plan and its boundaries.

    As inaugural Chairman of that committee I saw a great deal of work go into achieving the conditions of appointment of the committee.

    But it seems that the work of the committee, the findings of an expert report costing $45,000, and the views of the Heritage Council have all been ignored. The report your officers are putting to Council does not put forward the work of the committee or of the expert as promised by the mayor to various people and in the Herald recently: “Dr Pettitt says a working group is due to report within the next month about defining the boundaries for a proposed state heritage listed west end.” (Herald 20 October 2012).

    What is being put forward to Council this week is a direction to the Working Group to consider a greatly truncated West End area. There is no mention of the work of the committee over many meetings or of the expert consultant’s report.

    The Mayor’s comments on the front page of this week’s Herald as explanation are wrong. The mayor states: “Attempts at larger state listing have failed in the past ….the attempt to broaden the area’s boundaries probably contributed to its previous failures to get listed.” The mayor’s comments are totally inaccurate. The listing of the West End should have been done by the Heritage Council and Fremantle Council was busy for many years doing its very large Municipal Heritage Inventory. And, the new and amended West End area the committee and the heritage consultant discussed was also agreed to by the Heritage Council.

    I consider what is happening to be highly improper, as Council itself is not being given the work of the committee to decide upon, let alone officers assessing the merits of the work done so far.

    Whatever the merits of the Working Group and its work, the process has been corrupted because you as councillors are not being given the opportunity to assess the work of the committee. Any councillors interested in open and honest accountable governance should reject this item for the above reasons.

    John Dowson

    former Chairman West End Working Group
    former Chairman Heritage and Special Places Committee
    former Deputy Mayor City of Fremantle
    former President The Fremantle Society

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