The first sitting of the all new City of Fremantle Special Projects Committee was a rather strange one that made me wonder why it was public. This was more a brain-storming session between councillors, officers and CODA consultant Kieran Wong, with the Director of Planning and Development Services Phil St John sometimes rallying the subdued group like an AFL footy coach, to stay focused and come up with big picture thinking, concepts and vision. “We want to put together a vision of your ideas”
I understand council wants to be seen to be transparent and inclusive but this committee could well be held in-camera rather than public and only three people plus me were in the gallery with not even the local newspapers bothering to turn up.
The other strange thing is that the committee was there to talk about the Activity Centre Vision Plan,but although it is mentioned in the agenda that the consultant for Visioning 2029 had documented the workshops, no report was tabled or attached and the lengthy and costly community process was not mentioned. That to me is putting the cart before the horse. Why start another visioning project when we have not even evaluated the one we did last year?
Should two-way traffic everywhere, or in the West End, be considered and what would that mean? First of all it would mean a substantial loss of parking bays to the detriment of the businesses in the area, as Councillor Simon Naber rightly pointed out.
There was also the suggestion to make future new parking only available on the periphery and discourage private vehicle traffic through the CBD because we only want people driving in the CBD who have that as their destination. That however would not work by forcing people to park on the periphery who have the CBD as their shopping/business/entertainment destination. That needs a lot of rethinking.
The reactivation of the Passenger Terminal came up, but with Fremantle Ports having recently spend millions on refurbishing it, I doubt it will become a public space any time soon.
There is hope for Arthur Head with Chair Rachel Pemberton mentioning the “anticipated boardwalk” there. Bring it on asap!
The strangely low-energy meeting talked about connectivity, sightlines, connection through the convict establishment, and having more events at Fremantle Oval to take the stress off the heavily-used Esplanade. The latter is a good idea and the oval might even be suitable as an occasional outdoor live music area for Sunset Events when they take over the Artillery Drill Hall from the Fly by Night.
Share, or naked, streets were obviously also on the agenda as that is one of the buzzwords around the western world and placemaking fraternity, and I am all for it as long as it is done sensibly and not to the detriment of local businesses.
Of course more and better bicycle links were discussed, and preferred transit corridors, as was a lightrail loop, a fast transit bus to the airport, and CAT bus connection from North to East Freo.
What did not come up and should be part of any strategic plan for Fremante is to find alternative off-street parking for Notre Dame University students, because the West End is a no go zone to try to find parking for shoppers and visitors when the students are attending campus. Dare I suggest the corner of Cliff and High for a low-rise creative UNDA carpark, without upsetting all my heritage friends.
Councillor Bill Massie asked why the City spend so much money on bike lanes when only a very small, less than five percent, of the population uses bikes. I think that went straight one ear in one ear out with some of the green pipe dreamers on council, who refuse to be realistic that cars will remain the preferred form of transport for the majority of the population for a very long time.
Lowering vehicle speed is obviously essential if the shared streets idea takes off.
While Bill Massie said we need as many vehicles in the city as possible because businesses are bleeding, Robert Fittock said that business who relied on vehicles should change strategy. I don’t believe the debate should be about vehicles or not vehicles, but how Fremantle can make it fast and easy for people to come to the inner city by all forms of transport and accommodate parking in a walking distance from the shops.
Did I get inspired last eve and did I have the wow feeling of having listened to great ideas, outstanding concepts and something new and fresh? Not at all. There was a lack of creative, out of the box thinking, trodding over old ground and rehashing old placemaking sessions. I had a real sense of deja vu, of having been there before, a council ground hog day. I think the Director would have been pretty disappointed with the lack of substance he will now have to work with.