I have a lot of respect for the opinion of architect and urban planner Dr Linley Lutton, who used to be on the City of Fremantle’s Design Advisory Committee until he resigned from it, so I was very interested to read Lutton’s article about infill and density in the POST community newspapers.
Dr Lutton argues that the WA government push for higher density and infill is not working and is outdated and that apartments are the least preferred living options in Perth. He also writes that apartments can’t be adapted and are not family friendly, but that the biggest housing demand by 2031 will be for families and not singles and couples.
The random erection of ugly and big buildings in town centres also worries the city planner and he writes that it is not true that Perth is more low density than other capital cities. In fact we are at similar levels of density as Canberra, Adelaide and Brisbane and not far from that in Melbourne.
While high density is often pushed in older character suburbs it is hard to understand why the WA State Government does not insist on higher density in new suburbs where people are still mainly building one and two storey houses and no apartment blocks or town houses.
The urban myth that people are abandoning their cars is also not supported by facts with tens of thousands abandoning public transport even when they live near public transport, according to government figures.
Linley Lutton says that higher density apartment living can work well, but planners need to take into account that ‘culturally rich street life’ and work opportunities are essential for successful highrise living.
As I and others have often argued the success of city planning and new development is dependent on understanding what the community wants and needs. There is a need for better and more intense collaboration between planning experts and the community, starting as early as possible in the process, so that community opinion is not being dismissed as negative, reactive, NIMBY and anti-development.
I am personally very happy that so much new development is happening in Fremantle and much more planned, but we need to actively discourage ugly, boring, mediocre new buildings ‘designed’ by lazy architects who have no respect for Fremantle’s unique character.
While the urban sprawl is not sustainable the indiscriminate infill targets for older character suburbs also lack reality and need to be reconsidered.
Ordinary Council of the City of Fremantle will this evening debate the design of the Kings Square project buildings and if it should recommend approval to the State’s Joint Development Assessment Panel, which is the decision-making authority for the development.
Most important for me here are the comments by the City’s Design Advisory Committee, and they have several issues with some details of the proposal.
While the DAC says they are overall in support of the proposal and opportunities this brings to the retail core of the city centre, they believe that improvements can and should be made, so I suggest Council defers the matter until the architects have made the changes the DAC has suggested.
The DAC clearly states that the design is at a stage where the committee cannot recommend support or not for the proposal and they need to get more refined and detailed plans before making a recommendation.
I support the Kings Square project but it is such a huge and significant development for Fremantle that we need to get this right and every detail is fine-tuned before Council should recommend approval.
The height is within Planning Scheme Amendment 49, so not much use arguing about that now, but for the developers to show a night shot with lots of people on the roof is bad and unnecessary spin, since this is an office building that will not be occupied after office hours, but for maybe a couple of office parties each year.
Let’s stick with the facts, and that for me this is the most essential development project for Fremantle in its aim for economic recovery. Let’s do it well and make it a new attractive feature for our city!
At the Planning Commission on Wednesday evening the Chair of the City of Fremantle’s Design Advisory Committee Professor Geoffrey London expressed concerns about the proposed building for 18-22 Adelaide Street and how it would impact on the public realm, etc.
It made me wonder if the planning process needs to be adjusted to give more power to the DAC and make developers and their architects aware that unless the DAC suggested changes to the design are made the building application will not progress and be put in front of the Elected Members.
It is a waste of time to bring a planning approval to the Councillors when the expert architect panel is not happy with the design plans, hence the deferrals and delays we are getting and applicants are upset about.
It seems very strange that the DAC still has concerns but the planning and heritage officers recommended approval for the in my opinion totally unsuitable building for historic Kings Square.
It is likely there are inflated egos involved in the process and architects not wanting to take advise from other architects who are on the DAC, but tough titties to those who design shit and want us to believe we are looking at red roses.
I cannot at all understand that planning officers recommend approval when DAC architects have serious concerns, and the idea that this can be sorted after planning approval has been given is ridiculous because the developers will believe they got away with it.
In this case the developer is expecting discretionary additional height for an boring, ugly box and wants even more reward for building rubbish by asking to be exempt from paying the percentage for art/heritage sum.
Kings Square is a very precious and historically significant area of Fremantle and nothing but the best is good enough. As Councillor Hannah Fitzhardinge said, we want beautiful buildings!
The building boom in Fremantle is good for our city I believe but it also requires long-term strategic planning and a blueprint for where in Fremantle infill should be considered in the next 25 years.
Just doing small planning scheme amendments for a few streets and masterplans for other areas is not good city planning, so the City of Fremantle should do a comprehensive study on where the appropriate locations for medium and high density in Fremantle are.
Developers, investors and home owners should be able to access City of Fremantle information that will show them that a certain street or suburb is earmarked for higher density so they don’t get a nasty shock surprise just after they have purchased property that a six-storey building or even higher could be built next to their two- storey home(s).
It would also assist the Public Transport Authority and other State Government agencies to plan ahead instead of the slow reactive planning that is happening too often.
While it is good to have masterplans for specific areas I believe it is essential to have an infill masterplan blueprint for the entire city, as only that is well-considered and detailed long-term planning.
Fremantle has many good potential development areas just outside the CBD that need to be considered for residential development, because inner city living has become unaffordable for many people. A tiny new one-bedroom apartment in the city centre starts at half a million dollars, so hopefully locations a fifteen-minute bike ride away from the CBD will be cheaper and more affordable to people on lower incomes.
Accommodation for students, artists, pensioners, low-wage earners, etc. need to be part of the residential mix in Fremantle or we might develop into a yuppy city for the well-off only. That would not be very Freo at all!
The sustainable Fremantle White Gum Valley project by LandCorp, CODA and Urbis was awarded the ‘Best Planning Ideas Small Project’ at the 2016 National Awards for Planning Excellence in Queensland.
There were 15 awards giving in 13 categories and the judges said about the WGV project:
“WGV @ White Gum Valley exemplifies a unique urban infill project that was achieved through the collaboration between a developer, the local government and the community. The project is an excellent example of extending beyond current subdivisional and development practices, creating a best practice blueprint for other infill sites.
The project is exceptional for its ability to demonstrate the economic, environmental and social benefits of sustainable development. It provides a range of affordable and inclusive living options, incorporates elements of the natural environment and retains a connection with the sense of place for the existing local community. All this was achieved whilst transitioning to a contemporary urban form.
This project showcases a highly innovative and environmentally responsible approach to improving diversity of housing opportunities in urban areas, with an exciting outcome from engaging different partnerships to get the best out of sustainability at an affordable price.”
The FACTBase reports by the Committee for Perth are always interesting reading and the latest one on the failure of decentralisation is another one worth reading.
CfP concludes that despite many strategic activity centres being created for decades, the City of Perth still remains the number one destination for workers. More than 123,000 people commute to Perth daily.
The objective of getting people to work closer to home has not been achieved the Committee for Perth said, and there is a disparity between the number of jobs on offer and the number of workers in areas such as Cockburn, Melville and Rockingham in the southern suburbs, as well as Joondalup, Wanneroo, Armadale and Gosnells.
Committee for Perth CEO Marion Fulker said that “Interestingly, many of the people who are commuting to work are actually living in or near strategic development centres.”
The strategic metropolitan centres are Fremantle, Rockingham, Mandurah, Joondalup, Armadale, Midland, Morley, Cannington, Stirling.
We in Fremantle have been waiting for years for the State Government to move departments here to help restart the economy and help Freo to become an activity hub with many more office workers coming to work here and hopefully relocating and becoming residents of Fremantle.
Traffic congestion during peak hours is becoming worse and worse and people reject public transport because of over-crowded trains and busses, so decentralised activity hubs that offer real job opportunities are very important for the future of the Perth metropolitan area that is rapidly growing, but not coping with the population boom.
A new report by the Australian Council of Learned Academies-ACOLA tells us a lot what we already know but is important to remind us all about it time and time again.
The ACOLA reports says that by the middle of next century the population will be double in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne and that the cost of urban congestion will increase four-fold in the next 20 years to $ 53 billion by 2031.
We all know and understand that urban sprawl is the major factor in this, so ACOLA recommends to reduce and avoid the need to travel through creating economic hubs so people live close near where they work, and to shift to environmentally friendly transport; public, bikes, walking, and improve energy efficiency; electric cars.
The recommendation I like best, and wonder why it is not happening already, is to get all three levels of government, Federal, State and Local to actually coordinate planning.
ACOLA also suggest to establish a planning philosophy where the need for mobility is reduced and the aim of good health and sustainability advanced.
It all makes sense but how do we get the Great Australian Dream of a big house and garden out of the Australian culture?
The W.A. State Government is not exactly rushing to create so called satellite cities around the Perth metro area and move large departments to places like Fremantle, and neither are big businesses keen to move away from their highrise palaces in Perth and West Perth.
One option would be for Landcorp to release less land for single housing and insist on higher density new suburbs, and urban infill needs to increase faster than at the present rate and that is a challenge for local governments as residents are reluctant to embrace it.
ROEL FOR FREO! Beaconsfield Ward. Truly Independent.
Written and authorised by Roel Loopers of 5 Maxwell Street, Beaconsfield 6162.
Don’t forget to have a look at and have your say on the proposed new Fremantle ESPLANADE RESERVE Masterplan which will be on display there near the Youth Plaza from 10-12.30 today, Saturday, September12!
The Esplanade has been mismanaged and over used for many years and that needs to stop. Events have to be spread throughout the inner city but also the outer areas like Booyeembara Park, Princess May, etc. And Kings Square should be activated more often as well.
Wayfinding paths, better wheelchair accessibility, and some shade structures would be a good start. It is also essential to put heavy vehicle restrictions on most parts of the Esplanade where strict traffic controls are being enforced on bump in and bump out days of events.
The Esplanade is our major inner city community green space and it needs to be protected.
ROEL FOR FREO! Beaconsfield Ward. Truly Independent.
Written and authorised by Roel Loopers. 5 Maxwell Street. Beaconsfield 6162.
Put it in your diary now!
The FREMANTLE SOCIETY and FREMANTLE NETWORK are collaborating in an event on Tuesday August 18 at 5.30 pm at Rosy O’Gradys.
Freo Mayor Dr Brad Pettitt will be speaking about his European liveable cities tour an we’ll have a discussion with the audience on what applies to Fremantle, what we can learn as far as forward planning goes, and how all levels of government can improve integrated long-term planning. And the discussion won’t be limited to that.
Come along, bring friends, promote it through your networks, have a drink and be part of creating Freo’s future!
No bookings required! It’s a free event. Bar will be open and food and drinks available for sale.
The City of Fremantle full Council meeting tonight has many interesting items, such as the Cantonment Hill and Princess May Park masterplans on the agenda, and also the City’s submission to the State Government on the Perth and Peel @ 3.5 Million directions.
There are many people who questioned the need for the Perth and Peel @ 3.5 Million document when the government only launched its Directions 2031 four years ago. That document directed local councils to increase infill-higher density- development near train stations and along transit corridors, without guidance or support on how to do it, so it has achieved very little.
In 2014 the residential development fill in stood at 28% and the Directions 2031 wanted an increase to 47%, but we are not even close to that target in the metropolitan area where it stands at only 30%. Fremantle is one of the highest achievers with a 36% infill rate.
Part of the problem has been that the State Government has simply demanded a fill in increase without showing local governments how to achieve it and there has been lack of support for integrated planning with State agencies unwilling to increase public transport services to potential infill locations. It’s the chicken and egg thing where local governments want the State to introduce the services before they start infill development while the State expects the development to go ahead without committing to increasing old or implementing new services such as lightrail and or rapid bus transport.
What amazes me about all these plans, ideas and directions is a severe lack of reality at all levels of government and by so called planning experts. On TV yesterday opposition against the extension of a large northern suburb shopping centre was vocal, with overflow parking in residential streets being a problem, so yet another ‘expert’ voiced her opinion that shopping centres should be built near train stations. Ooops! I though State Government wanted mainly residential infill near train stations, so not sure how very large-scale shopping precincts would be incorporated within those plans.
There is also naivety about suggesting shopping centres near train stations as it would be near impossible to do so along the Fremantle to Perth and Armadale line where shopping centres would destroy the older residential suburbs to an unrecognisable mess and severely impact on the character and lifestyle.
Let us look at the practicality of shopping centres near railway stations. Why is it IKEA, BIG W, The GOOD GUYS, HARVEY NORMAN, etc. are not near railway stations but next to large parking areas? Because people will not buy a huge flatscreen TV, new computer, washing machine, etc. and take it home on the train. They want to put it in their car or on the back of the ute and that is why shopping centres near railway stations only could be what we already have; highstreets. Sadly highstreets have lost popularity and people flock to sterile shopping centres instead.
Long and short term city planning needs to receive a severe injection of reality. The naive dreamers and unrealistic placemakers should take a cold shower or direct their creativity toward making surreal art, because city planning needs to be about achievable outcomes.