Freo's View


Posted in architecture, city of fremantle, heritage, Uncategorized by freoview on August 9, 2017




In a 2.15 hour meeting today the W.A. Joined Development Assessment Panel unanimously refused the application for three five-storey buildings in Fremantle’s heritage-listed West End.

The buildings were proposed for the Customs House on the corner of Henry and Phillimore street, going all the way back to the former Centrelink site in Pakenham Street.

Representatives from FICRA, Lance Holt School and the Fremantle Society spoke against the proposal.

FICRA spokeswoman Mary Rose Baker said it was frustrating that the Fremantle community had to keep defending the West End agains in-defensable buildings.

A Lance Holt spokeswoman said there were a whole raft of issues with the proposal that were not compliant with several planning schemes and policies.

Agnieshka Kiera for FS said the height is excessive in comparison to adjacent buildings, and would change forever the roofscape and urban aspect of the West End. Over-development would negatively impact on the heritage identity of the area.

Speakers for the applicants spoke about the unique opportunity to revitalise and activate the West End by having significantly more residents living there, and that the buildings would complement the West End heritage character through best design outcomes.

They said that they were on the right track, through modifications made after the plans had been submitted, to get support from the State Heritage Office.

Height is the major concern that can be modified, but height is not detrimental to the area. The buildings would have a positive impact on the streetscape.

JDAP panel member Fremantle Councillor Andrew Sullivan asked why the architects had decided on such a robust approach and with solid, even heavy, materials.

The building heights across the site were a major concern and the applicants had not reviewed that aspect significantly enough to warrant a deferral. The fundamental issue remains height, Sullivan said, and that the justification for extra, discretionary, height was rejected by the City of Fremantle.

Sullivan also said the proposal was not a complete dud and had the potential to significantly contribute to the city and save the West End, but it needed major amendments. It failed the fundamental test of built form and does not pay respect to the heritage facades and locality in general. “The failure in architecture in un-approvable.”

Councillor Jon Strachan said that deferring the application was not an option for him because the plans needed significant changes, but that he was quietly confident a good outcome could be reached after major changes had been made.

Strachan said it was not an honest application as the developers just tried to test what they would be able to get away with, and then made little changes here and little changes there. “Come back with an excellent design!” he suggested.

JDAP Chair put a motion for a 90-day deferral forward that was not passed 2-3 votes, and then the entire panel voted to refuse the application, which may now end up at the State Administrative Tribunal, if the applicants are stubborn and unwilling to compromise and submit new plans to the City of Fremantle that are more sympathetic to the West End heritage precinct.

Last but not least I have to compliment the City of Fremantle planning officer Julia Kingsbury for her very good, detailed, and to the point representation, that concluded that the plans were not approvable.

It was very interesting to see JDAP at work, but some of the comments made by panel members have not given me the confidence that Fremantle’s West End will be well protected from inappropriate development in the future.

One last word from me to the architects and developers: You have a great opportunity here to excel and put up outstanding four-storey buildings. While I appreciate you want a good return for your investment and maximise sellable and lettable floorspace, you would be well advised to take the example of Notre Dame University and reflect, sit back, forget egos, and redesign your proposal substantially. All the community is asking for is respectful architecture that enhances the heritage precinct. Come on, You can do it!


Roel Loopers

4 Responses

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  1. freoview said, on August 10, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    Indeed, Carl. We need to demand better and mor creative architecture and that means developers need to stop the cheap and chearful approach to buildings.

    Future generations should be amazed by the buildings we are building today, as we are with many buildings of the past, but sadly heritage of the future is rarely built because the triple bottom line is far more important to those who develop. They don’t care about culture or leaving something beautiful in history.


  2. Carl Payne said, on August 10, 2017 at 11:58 am

    The “everybody wins” comment is interesting. The current low fees that architects are getting – a third what they were some 20 – 25 years ago, with higher costs, contributes to a rushed approach. This is not a good thing – it leads to less design-development; less research; less consideration of the full range of design criteria that should influence the final design. A competition prize “as low as $3,000” will not attract worthwhile entrants. Societies that reward informed creativity, are themselves well-rewarded. A society which sets the bar low, judging worthwhile design as that which features in say Saturday’s housing pages of “The West”, isn’t going anywhere.

  3. Paula Amaral said, on August 9, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    I also thought that some of the comments made by panel members were worrying. It actually sounded not well informed which one wouldn’t expect from someone in that position. I briefly talked to the developers at the end, and told them I felt they had not considered the “big picture”. It seems they only thought of the area they own, without considering the whole of the West End and the impact their piece of development will have on it.
    Agnieshka Kiera put it really well. She said “if it were accepted it would signal the beginning of the destruction of the West End as it is”. We don’t have another “almost intact” 19th century city in Perth, it’s skyscape is beautiful, why should we allow for it to be destroyed?

  4. bigjulie said, on August 9, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    What a promising ray of sunshine. At last the message has got to its target! Boring shoe boxes with Sketchup windows are out – innovation and the unique amazing wow factor is required.

    If the local architects cannot cut the mustard, the other option for the owners is to have a global competition for aspiring talent. Some of these competition prizes are as low as $3000 dollars, so everyone wins.

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