Unfortunately the very strong and cold sea breeze and the forecast of inclement weather kept people away from the Folk&Roots event at J Shed on Sunday afternoon, presumably because they did not know the music was performed inside the No 1 studio, with views to Bathers Beach through the huge window and sheltered from the weather.
Those who stayed at home missed out on very good music, a really nice atmosphere and yummy food from the Flying Falafels food van.
The No 1 studio at J Shed is perfect for events and the large space is very comfortable, so I hope Fremantle Council will approve the application for a six months use by Emilia Galati who has applied to start O6M in that space, until Sunset Events take up their 25 year lease on July 1.
Emilia has really good energy and was the brilliant manager of the former Merenda Aboriginal Gallery in High Street. She was also involved in organising the fantastic Aboriginal art market at the Fremantle Arts Centre earlier this year, so she will bring new vitality to J Shed.
Scaffolding is going up at the Fremantle Townhall for the well overdue exterior restoration of the heritage building at Kings Square.
It is a real shame that the City of Fremantle does not have more money available to do more regular maintenance of the City owned historic buildings, but at least we have seen an improvement over the last two years with work done at the Old Boys School, the Evan Davies building, the one on the corner of High and Henry streets, and now the Townhall.
There are some letters in the Fremantle Herald today about the Fremantle Society’s AGM on Monday and the two candidates for the presidency. I like and respect John Dowson and Chris Lewis, so at the end it would have to be a decision on what members believe is best for Fremantle, so I expect a bit of heat and negativity on Monday at the Fremantle Tennis Club.
I hear people say that Chris Lewis is pro development, suggesting John Dowson is anti development. I leave it to you to make your own judgment on that and also if Fremantle can afford to have an anti development community group that will basically treat Council as the enemy. As far as I am aware there is nothing in the Fremantle Society constitution that says it has to be against development or change. My personal feeling is that the times of negative anti Council Townhall events are well and truly over, and they have been ineffective for the last few years.
Fremantle can’t afford to be anti change and progress because our retailers are barely surviving and we need to get more people living and working in the inner city.
Cities all over the world organically grow and Fremantle is slowly doing that, but the preservation and protection of our unique heritage and character must be a priority no matter which side of politics one supports.
What Fremantle and the Fremantle Society need is balance and a willingness to engage and find the best possible compromise, because accepting new development will always be a compromise, and development will happen no matter how loud we yell.
I see a bigger picture for the Society that would give power back to the local communities, and that is being at the front of demanding either the abandonment or significant changes to the Development Assessment Panels and the power of the State Administrative Tribunal, who basically rubber stamp 90 per cent of planning applications, and often against the recommendations of the local councils. It is not acceptable that the State bullies councils into accepting inappropriate buildings that show little or no regard to the heritage and character of place. That is not on and the Society should start yelling and screaming way up and deal with the reality that the City of Fremantle Council and Design Advisory Panel are lame ducks that have very little influence on what can be built in our beautiful city.
The Society committee needs balance as well. Active and committed people from both sides of the pro or anti development and it needs realistic people who don’t believe they can keep Fremantle the way it is. Change is inevitable because it is the way life is, and Fremantle is desperate for change, improvement and modernisation in the run down areas of the city, but that does not mean we should be willing to compromise in the historic West End that deserves to be protected unconditionally.
I want a forward looking, change-embracing, progressive and realistic Fremantle Society president and committee, because only then will the community group become relevant again to Freo. That is the challenge for Monday’s AGM.
So now it finally becomes clear what the City of Fremantle means with shared streets and we need the WA Planning Commission report to find out.
Since Fremantle Ports has denied access along Fleet Street to Sunset Events for their 12 concerts a year at J Shed alternative access had to be created and what a disaster it will be.
The tourist foot path and bike path between J Shed and Kidogo Arthouse will be the supply route to get fencing, bar goods, portaloos, skip bins, etc. to the events venue. They will be offloaded from trucks East of Kidogo Arthouse by forklift and then transported by a 1.5 t forklift to J Shed.
But it gets even worse! Light vehicles and catering vans will be allowed to drive on the tourist foot path to get to J Shed, and all that will be happening while someone in a high visibility vest will walk along.
It is outrageous that the busy foot/bike path in the heritage precinct that connects the Maritime Museum with the Fishing Boat Harbour will now become the main vehicle access road for the concert venue, but that is the kind of service the City of Fremantle gives to its mates without much consideration to our tourists and local residents who enjoy the area.
It is interesting to note in this context that access along that same foot path for light food vans was denied to the Bathers Beach Sunset Food Markets. The City of inconsistent decision-making shows its double standards yet again!
There is a bit of rumbling going on in the Fremantle Society so the AGM in two weeks could become a heated one. It looks like two camps are emerging with one supporting John Dowson and the other Chris Lewis to become the next president of the community lobby group. I believe both camps should chill a bit because the Society no longer is the power house it was thirty years ago and does not have the political influence it used to have at local and state level.
Former Fremantle Councillor, historian, author and book publisher John Dowson has been consistent over very many years in his dedicated and passionate fight to protect Fremantle’s heritage and unique character, but he has also been accused of being against change and anti development.
Opponents of Chris Lewis accuse him of being pro development and a pawn for former WA Premier Peter Dowding. They lob in the FS committee appointed membership officer Benita Dowding claiming she is kind of branch stacking by signing up new members from within her social groups. No one though accuses John Dowson of doing the same although he has signed up new members from all over Perth in the last two months, so the argument against Benita Dowding is pretty shallow.
Presidents don’t make decisions at the Fremantle Society, committee does, so I believe it is far more important to elect the right committee members and have the right balance there. The president is the public figure head of the group but can’t make dictatorial decisions, so does it matter much if it is Dowson or Lewis?
Fremantle is at a crossroads, and has been since Council adopted Planning Scheme Amendment 49 that allows buildings of up to 11 storeys in the CBD. The city is changing with big developments happening at Queen Victoria Street, Beach Street, Queen Adelaide and Cantonment Street, Pakenham, Cliff Street, etc.
Change is inevitable and part of how cities organically grow. Some of it is good and some of it is not so good. Fremantle needed an economic recovery and revitalisation and it needed the ugly ‘Beirut’ part of the CBD to be modernised, but unfortunately none of the new buildings and the planned ones have great architectural merit. They are basically bland and boring boxes and that is disappointing when we were hoping for the heritage of the future quality Freo really needs.
Even if the Fremantle Society managed to have an impact at local level and got Fremantle Council to be more critical of new development, the likelihood would be that most of it would be overruled by the State’s dictatorial Development Assessment Panels and State Administration Tribunal, who ignore community and local councils’ wishes and support ugly highrise in older suburbs that will change the unique character of these places.
Old-style community groups no longer seem to have the impact they used to have as the public tends to support single issue organisations more, so maybe it is time for the Fremantle Society to have a good look at its relevance and the way it operates. It needs modern thinking, acceptance of change and development and that Fremantle will not remain low-rise forever. I would hate to see anything above eight storeys in the CBD, but I fear we won’t be able to stop it because the State Government keeps demanding that local councils increase density.
The Society needs a new, younger and stronger membership base, with people who have the time and commitment to protect our city’s heritage character and unique lifestyle, and it needs to accept that the world is a very different place from when the Society started 44 odd years ago. The proper democratic process will elect the next president and new committee, so let’s stop the defamations and accusations and move on.