Freo's View

BARNETT HAS NOT CLOSED DOORS ON FREMANTLE

Posted in city of fremantle, development, kings square by freoview on June 26, 2015

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I just read through the Parliament Hansard minutes and I believe there is still a glimmer of hope that State Government will move a department to Fremantle in the future, with Premier Colin Barnett expressing his respect for Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt and leaving the door open to move government employees to Freo.

He indicated that the government had discussions with the developers-Sirona Capital-and that the process might go to tender, but he also said that a move to Fremantle is not necessarily a win for the state but would to help revitalise the dying heart of the city, so it might be worth for the state paying the price for that to assist the efforts of Fremantle Council.

My personal fear is that it has now become a political campaign that could become detrimental for Fremantle. It might be better if the Labor opposition pulled back and let the discussions between Fremantle Council and State Government continue, as our city desperately needs the Kings Square development to revive our dying inner city.

I have expressed before how much I like Sirona Capital‘s commitment to Fremantle, as they are also involved in other development in the inner city, including the Heirloom by Match development of the Dalgety woolstores, the Quest Hotel in Pakenham street, and Adelaide Plaza.

Gerard O’Brien’s Silverleaf and Sirona are the main players in the revitalisation of inner city Fremantle, with Silverleaf building the Atwell Arcade and soon developing the Woolstores shopping centre site.

It is sometimes difficult not to despair in Fremantle when new development plans are delayed, but I don’t want to give up hope that in 5-10 years from now Fremantle will have a vibrant CBD with a mix of heritage and  well-designed modern buildings, many more residents and office workers, a great retail variety, and that our Freo will become the proud second city of our state. If I did not believe this can happen I would move away to a suburb that is more affordable to live in.

Roel Loopers

CARBON EMISSION SHOULD BE PART OF FREIGHT LINK DEBATE

Posted in city of fremantle, fremantle ports, perth freight link by freoview on June 24, 2015

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There are optimists who believe Fremantle and the other affected southern suburbs can win the fight against the proposed Perth Freight Link, but I believe we should not just concentrate on that. As regular comment writer on this blog Diana Ryan suggested to me we should also push our State Government to set Carbon Emission Standards for trucks, as other port cities in Australia are doing. It is also big on the agenda of US President Obama to reduce residue from trucks and make them more fuel efficient.

There are so many opinions on the PFL and if it will be road or tunnel or both, and if it will be for trucks only or for general traffic as well, that it is quite confusing, even more so because some people want to get political mileage from it while others push their ideology.

For me the City of Fremantle commissioned $ 20,000 report on the PFL was a bit disappointing as I read it that the authors want freight to go on rail and hence found reasons why the PFL can’t work. I would have preferred a report by engineers pointing out alternative solutions instead of an ideology driven one.

Tell the people along the western corridor of Fremantle that we should drastically increase container transport to Fremantle Port by rail and double stack and they tell you to stick the idea somewhere, because they like the noise and inconvenience as much as those in the east of the city like the noise and fumes of trucks.

Even if we achieved to get 30 per cent of container transport on rail we would still have to cope with and find solutions for the 70 per cent that will continue to come on trucks by road. Setting carbon emission standards and reducing pollution would be a start. We then have to start pushing our state and federal governments to stop the idiocy of spending billions on roads when freight rail and public transport needs to be prioritised. Didn’t Bill Shorten announce yesterday that Labor have colluded with the Abbot governments so that many many billions of dollars can be spend on country roads? What about spending a lot of that money on rail instead, so that products from the country to the cities don’t have to go on trucks and roads!

Yesterday a truck full of grain flipped on its side in suburban Perth and that shows we are increasing the likelihood of road carnage with more and more trucks on their way to and from the port. Common sense needs to prevail and that is more likely to happen if we don’t politicise the issue and not make it an anti Liberal, anti Barnett, and anti Abbott campaign.

Will Labor’s Mark McCowan scrap the Perth Freight Link and the sale of Fremantle Port should he win the next election?

Roel Loopers

W.A. PREMIER BARNETT TELLS FREMANTLE TO SHUT UP!

There is an interesting article in the Sunday Times today based on the discussion paper written by City of Fremantle CEO Graeme McKenzie that I published here on Freo’s View on Thursday. In the article Premier Colin Barnett basically tells the City of Fremantle to shut up about the Perth Freight Link or they won’t get support from the State Government.

Barnett is quoted in the Sunday Times “They are wanting things out of the State Government and at the same time they are being critical, so it comes to mind Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

The Premier then mentions that the City of Fremantle is protesting against Roe Highway Stage Eight while at the same time lobbying to get the Department of Housing to move to Freo, as was promised by then Housing Minister Troy Buswell several years ago.

What the Premier implies is that democracy does not exists and that the Elected Members of our Local Government have no right to express an opinion and represent the Fremantle community.

It is outrageous that neither the City of Fremantle, nor the board and management of Fremantle Ports were advised about the sale of the port by State Government prior to the government announcing it. That is an insult to our City and to those who have been managing Fremantle Ports very well for very many years.

Premier Colin Barnett’s arrogance and dictatorial attitude is only dwarfed by his mismanagement of our State’s finances. His remarks to the Sunday Times are inappropriate, disgraceful and disrespectful to the Fremantle community and Council. The ad hoc piecemeal planning of the Perth Freight Link and the panicked fire sale of the port shows Barnett and his government have lost the plot.

Roel Loopers

FREO CITY DISCUSSION PAPER ON SALE OF PORT

Posted in city of fremantle, fremantle ports by freoview on June 18, 2015

The following discussion paper about the sale of Fremantle Port and the impact of the Perth Freight Link by City of Fremantle CEO Graeme McKenzie is very long for a blog but I believe the issue is extremely important for Fremantle and surrounding cities, so it is well worth reading what the CEO of our city will present to Council next Wednesday:

CITY OF FREMANTLE

Sale of Fremantle Port Discussion Paper

IntroductionThis discussion paper looks at the issues that arise from the recent announcement by the state government that it will sell the Fremantle Port operations to a private sector operator through a competitive process. Whilst the City of Fremantle may have views on the merits or otherwise of public sector versus private sector operators of key state infrastructure, this paper does not make comment on this point, but rather focusses on the local implications for Fremantle.

This paper is also prepared on the understanding that improved transport infrastructure is planned and will be built in the next 2-5 years to improve the landside transport capacity and therefore longevity of the port of Fremantle as a working port. The decision to sell the port to a private operator is likely to be predicated on a much increased dockside operating capacity, supported by the increased transport capacity, in order to attract the best possible return to the state government through the disposal. Therefore the proposed Perth Freight Link project is integral to the discussion about the proposed sale of the port.

Background and ContextThe City of Fremantle’s vision for the future of Fremantle includes the retention of the Fremantle inner harbour as a working port. Projections for growth port container trade expect a doubling by 2028 to 1.4 million TEU’s, which is estimated to be the maximum capacity of the Fremantle port to handle container trade. The port also handles other bulk cargos such as motor vehicles and livestock.

Perth Freight LinkThe state government, with the assistance of the federal government, is proposing a “Perth Freight Link” (PFL) to increase the road capacity into and out of the Fremantle Port by the creation of a freeway standard road between the port and the Perth Airport, and ultimately linking to a larger road network of similar standard. The PFL as currently articulated by the state government has a project budget of $1.6 billion.

A major flaw in the PFL plans as currently articulated is that there are no planned or funded works on the north side of the Swan River or for the Canning Highway intersection to improve the efficiency of either rail or road transport functions into the inner harbour. This creates a major congestion point at the Fremantle end of the PFL at the Stirling Highway/Canning Highway intersection. This is a major community amenity issue for the City of Fremantle and the Town of East Fremantle which can only get worse with the projected growth in trade and the lack of alternative options to support the inner harbour.

Whilst, there have been statements that the government is currently working on plans to complete the PFL into the inner harbour to resolve the river crossing and North Fremantle issues, the state budget makes no provision for further funding beyond that which has already been allocated.

The construction of improved freight transport infrastructure (in any form) to the port should have positive implications for the longevity of the inner harbour as a working port – a position that the City at the highest strategic level would currently support. However, how that infrastructure is designed impacts local amenity and the local economy of Fremantle to varying, mostly negative, degrees and is therefore problematic. In fact, Council may ultimately reconsider its long term strategic vision of maintaining a working port in the inner harbour. The City’s position on the PFL is currently being considered and is subject to separate reports.

Sale of the Port

It is well known that the state government budget position is weak, running a significant deficit budget and record levels of debt. In an attempt to bring the budget into a more positive position the government announced in May 2015 that it would sell (read long term lease) the Fremantle Port operation to the private sector, with a sale price expectancy of $1.5 – $2.0 billion.

This announcement came as a very big surprise to the City of Fremantle and to the community. In fact, earlier that very same week the Council had met with the Board of Fremantle Ports who stated that they were not the subject of a government sell off, suggesting that even the Board of Fremantle Ports were unaware that this announcement was coming.

Subsequently, the announcement was not supported by any detail as to the scope of the sale or the process for the sale to occur.

Immediately following the announcement, the City wrote to the state Treasurer seeking a meeting with relevant state government Minister/s to clarify a number of questions that immediately came to mind. The City is yet to receive a reply to that correspondence.

Given a little more time and now with the benefit of input from elected members and staff, further questions and issues have been identified which this paper will address. In order to bring this paper together in a coherent manner, the issues have been grouped together and should therefore assist in focussing discussion on the important issues.

Discussion

The Disposal Process – Key Issues

  • Sale or lease? If a lease what term of lease is the government considering?
  • Is it only the operational areas of the port being considered for sale/lease? Is there an opportunity to review the ports operational area?
  • Is the Fremantle Ports Administration building part of the sale/lease?
  • What happens to the non-operational areas of the port?
  • Will the State consult and involve affected regional local governments in the development of the approach and process for leasing Fremantle Port?

 The question is asked whether the government intends to sell the port with all its assets including freehold land, or whether it is intending to lease. It is presumed that the transaction will be a leasing transaction, since this has been what’s occurred in other states in Australia but the point needs to be clarified.

The key questions then relate to lease scope and conditions. In terms of scope – is this a lease of container operations only, all port operations (including other bulk trade, passenger and naval visits), or all current Fremantle Ports responsibilities including non-operational activities? The implications are quite different under each scenario.

The next key question for Fremantle relates to the term of a lease. Any lease would commit the state government to utilising the inner harbour as a working port for at least the term of the lease. Clearly the longer the term, the greater the certainty for Fremantle that it will have to live with and manage port impacts, positive and negative, across the city. This then influences the City’s thinking on current and future transport links, particularly the PFL.

It is expected that the lease will be for all port operations, but will exclude non-operational areas, which leads to questions about development, management and control of those non-operational areas (dealt with separately).

 Stakeholder Relationships – Key Issues

  • Relationship between Fremantle Ports and the City of Fremantle
  • Continuation of the Inner Harbour Community Liaison Group
  • What provision in the lease contract will be made for ongoing and formal consultation between the State, local government and the lessee on community and interface issues?

It is recognised that Fremantle Ports is a quasi-government agency that operates within a commercial framework set out in legislation. Fremantle Ports is viewed in the community as a public sector agency, not a private sector agency, and as such has a degree of social responsibility that is not always evident in private sector companies.

This status provides the City of Fremantle with a level of comfort that it can negotiate and influence to some extent the manner in which the port interacts and integrates with the city. Over time, the City and Fremantle Ports have built a very strong relationship that will be put at risk when the port operations are devolved to a private operator, which in turn puts at risk the City’s influence over how the port interacts and works with the City for mutually beneficial outcomes.

It is also recognised the FP has a long established “Inner Harbour Community Liaison Group” which meets quarterly with senior port officers to discuss issues of importance to the broader community on port developments and operations. This may also be at risk under privatised arrangements.

Strategic Plans – Key Issues

  • How will the development of the outer harbour be pursued/planned/controlled under any lease arrangement? Will the lease place any rights or obligations on the purchaser for the construction and/or operation of an outer harbour? What is the timeframe for the construction of an outer harbour in Cockburn Sound?
  • To what extent will the State’s current strategic plans for metropolitan ports and associated land and access arrangements be maintained by the State and applied in the lease negotiations? Will the State continue its responsibility to plan, facilitate and fund the necessary land assets and service infrastructure to support metropolitan port operations?

To quote from the Newman and Hendrigan report on the PFL – “there has been a long range bipartisan strategic plan to manage growth in freight involving a transition to the outer harbour.” The proposed lease of the inner harbour together with the PFL places uncertainty on this strategic path.

There is a significantly greater risk of a private operator stretching the throughput capacity of the Fremantle port causing a delay in the construction of an outer harbour. Whilst estimates of the capacity of Fremantle port are 1.2 – 1.4 million TEU’s (predicted to be reached by 2028), it is not unreasonable to think that capacity could be increased to 2 million TEU’s with improved technologies in container handling and improved portside logistics. Unfortunately this could be done but without due regard to community impacts, unless the lease terms set clear parameters or limits on trade.

One would expect it would be in the government’s interest to allow this stretch in capacity as it could to provide a greater financial return to the government through the ability to offer a longer term lease.

The key long term future of the inner harbour as a functional working port that does not unduly have negative impacts on community amenity and lifestyle is the opening of a second port to serve the metropolitan area of Perth.

Planning and Development Controls – Key Issues

  • Which agency becomes responsible for planning over non-operational port areas, either within or outside of the lease?
  • What happens to the proposed commercial development on Victoria Quay? Who takes control of progressing that and other developments?
  • Will the City be given any planning control over the non-operational port areas?
  • To what extent would a lessee be required to consult with local government for development approvals?
  • What are the implications for the planning buffer zone and for the future development of the disused tanks area in North Fremantle?

Whilst the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) is currently the responsible planning authority for development decisions on non-operational areas of the port, and it is expected that agency would retain that authority, there is an opportunity to “normalise” planning controls to the City of Fremantle. This of course depends on the extent of exclusion/inclusion in a lease of non-operational areas.

There exists a window of opportunity for the government to transfer planning controls of the areas of the port that are excluded from the lease to the City and the City should advocate to government for this to occur.

In the event non-operational areas are not included in a lease, the key question for the City is who “owns” those areas and who drives development of those areas? Without Fremantle Ports working with the City to develop non-operational areas for commercial and community uses there is a strong likelihood that those areas will remain undeveloped for years to come and all of the City’s desires for development of that precinct with strong links to the city centre will be put indefinitely on hold.

There is also concern about the “tanks” area in North Fremantle. The WAPC, Fremantle Ports, and the City have cooperatively initiated a structure planning exercise over this area. Fremantle Ports owns land in this precinct also and has been a willing partner in the exercise. Fears again exist about this potential redevelopment area falling away as a priority.

Transport Infrastructure – Key Issues

  • Will the lease terms impose a maximum number of containers for the inner harbour and if so what will that be?
  • Is the government going to maintain its commitment to 30% freight on rail, and will that be included in lease terms?
  • Will the lessee be obligated to fund any access infrastructure as part of the lease contract?

Without going into the merits or otherwise of the Perth Freight Link, there are a couple of key questions that relate directly to the proposed sale/lease. The City has long advocated for more freight to be moved by rail in preference to road, and despite not reaching much more than 50% of the target rate, the government remains committed to transporting some of the freight by rail. This is being achieved through a financial subsidy from the government.

The current percentage of freight on rail varies monthly between 13% and 17%, averaging close to 15% per annum against a target of 30% total freight on rail. The City needs assurances that the government will require as much freight as possible to be moved on rail through contractual requirements in a lease. Without this, there is a potential for rail to cease operating with all freight being moved into and out of the port on road. This exacerbates a range of problems identified in the PFL Report prepared for council.

As identified above, the City is absolutely clear that the outer harbour construction is the best solution to minimising the impacts of freight transport into and out of the inner harbour as it allows a capping of throughput in the inner harbour at a manageable level. That cap needs to be set by government within the lease reflecting the volume of freight that can be moved by road. Total throughput may be increased if the quantity of freight moved on rail is increased, providing of course that the level of rail disruption is managed.

Tourism – Key Issues

  • What happens to the collaborative approach to cruise ship passenger management between the City and the Port?
  • Are the ferry terminals and E-Shed Markets impacted by the sale/lease?
  • Who takes over the parking contracts at the port?
  • Is there still a commitment to the Maritime Museum?

 The cruise ship industry has grown significantly in the past decade to a point where over 100,000 passengers went through the passenger terminal in the 2014/15 season. During this time the City and FP have worked together to provide the best possible visitor experience for embarking and disembarking passengers. For Fremantle this means easy movement into and out of the city centre, access to visitor information and generally a better visitor experience. This in turn provides a reputational benefit for Fremantle and evidence indicates local businesses benefit by having more passengers staying in Fremantle instead of taking day trips into Perth, the Swan Valley or even Margaret River.

This benefit is at a very high risk of being lost in the move to a private port operation. In fact, even the work that FP has done to attract cruise ships and manage the competing demands for space between cruise ships and the vehicle imports at the terminal is at risk. FP has done a lot of work with the cruise ship industry to attract these visits, and it is understood the terminal fees for these are much less than the fees for commercial shipping. Where does a private operator put their priority for visitation?

Recently the City lost the management contract for parking at Victoria Quay. The contract was awarded to Wilson Parking because they offered a significantly better return to FP than the City was able to offer. Whilst that is accepted, in discussions with FP they were acutely aware of maintaining a fee regime in line with City policy, including fines which are particularly important for Fremantle’s reputation as a visitor destination. The potential for a future contract to be awarded without regard to these factors and being purely for best financial return could be damaging. This is a matter that needs attention.

 Other Issues

  • What arrangements will be made for visiting defence vessels?
  • Will the operator be obligated to pay council rates?

It would be expected that the government would ensure that visiting naval ships were managed with appropriate security and that appropriate civic arrangements were in place for each visit, but it is something worth raising with government because Fremantle is a destination that many international sailors value as a port for R&R. Again, if not managed properly Fremantle reputation suffers.

Finally, there is the key question of whether the City will benefit directly by having the operator being required to pay council rates. Fremantle Ports as a government agency is exempt from rates for land it occupies, although it does pay rates for land it leases for commercial purposes as part of port operations.

There are many other issues for the state government to consider in preparing for a lease of the Fremantle port to a private operator. Whilst many of these issues may be of general interest, it is not the purpose of this discussion paper to address those issues that are a responsibility of the state and have little or no impact on Fremantle. There needs to be a level of trust that the state government will, if a lease is awarded, have protected its interests in the transaction. The following links to information about proposed lease of the Ports of Melbourne and Darwin provide a lot of information on such matters.

Melbourne Port

Norton Rose Fulbright have a 2014 document on privatisation of the Melbourne Port at http://www.nortonrosefulbright.com/knowledge/publications/116595/privatisation-of-port-of-melbourne-australia .

 Darwin Port

A recent document (April 2015) for the privatisation of the Port of Darwin is at http://www.nt.gov.au/lant/parliamentary-business/committees/pod/Port_of_Darwin_Report.pdf .

 However, of note are a couple of interesting comments from the ACCC about disposal of government assets to the private sector.

“Benefits from privatisation will be maximised where there is strong potential for competition or where, in the absence of competition due to monopoly or near monopoly characteristics, there is sufficient regulatory oversight to ensure that competition in upstream or downstream markets is not hindered” (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Privatisation of State and Territory Assets and New Infrastructure, p.4) and

“Without an adequate regulatory regime (covering access and/or pricing) monopoly infrastructure service providers would be capable of earning monopoly profits or foreclosing competition. Benefits would therefore flow to investors, at the expense of users of the asset and, ultimately, end consumers. Inadequate economic regulation can also dampen investment in markets that depend on access to the monopoly asset, thereby denying at least some of the benefits the community could obtain from greater competition.” (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Privatisation of State and Territory Assets and New Infrastructure, p.4)

Similarly, a quote from Infrastructure Australia is also very pertinent:

“As a maritime nation, Australia’s ports are an important gateway for goods and for our defence. Consequently, ports and associated infrastructure are of the utmost economic and social importance to Australia” (Infrastructure Australia, National Ports Strategy, Australian Government, Sydney, NSW, 2011, p. 6)

Recommendation

There are clearly a range of implications for Fremantle that should be addressed by the state government as it establishes details of its disposal process for the port of Fremantle. It is recommended that a workshop be held with elected members and key staff to facilitate the preparation of a submission for government on agreed matters following adoption of the council’s position on the PFL at the June Council meeting.

Graeme McKenzie. CEO City of Fremantle

HOW CAN WE IMPROVE OUR GREEN URBAN SPACES?

Posted in city of fremantle, esplanade, nature by freoview on June 15, 2015

Friends and I were talking on the weekend about the Fremantle Esplanade reserve draft Masterplan and the problems associated with accommodating people enjoying it, allowing for events to be staged on the reserve, and looking after the grass and trees. We wondered if large green open spaces are still sustainable in our changing climate where we receive a lot less rain than in the past and have a dryer and hotter climate to deal with.

Most people don’t want more concrete in parks but designated walkways on the Esplanade, which will protect the grass, and extending the mulched areas under trees, seems to me to be a sensible proposal. It would also require less water for reticulation, so that would be an added bonus.

We have a fast increasing population in WA and plans for thousands more residents in the Fremantle inner city, and that means more people will need access to outdoor facilities, but can our society still afford to look after large green grass open spaces that require extensive and expensive watering and maintenance?

Most of us probably believe that densely populated cities need more green open spaces to allow those who live in apartments access to grassed areas to play on and have a picnic, etc, but is that still practical and realistic, or should we look for alternative ways to create public spaces, and what would such new spaces look like?

In a state where there is water shortage we can no longer afford to waste drinking water on the reticulation of vast lawns, so can we recycle water and use grey water instead, and where to take it from? The Esplanade Masterplan draft suggests an underground tank to take used water from Little Creatures to water the reserve, and that might be a practical solution, depending on what the costs would be to install and maintain the system.

I am not a greenie, but there is no doubt in my mind that climate change will force us to do things differently and better, and that could mean fewer private grassed gardens and green verges and quite different public open spaces that recognise the need to reduce water consumption.

No one likes to see more concrete, but paths throughout parks that protect the grass, and mulched areas under trees, are acceptable compromises to make sure our urban nature remains healthy for all of us to enjoy longer. Paved paths are also easier to use than grass for disabled people and wheelchair and gopher users, and for parents with prams.

To assist with reducing water use we should also call for our governments to implement a law that requires new residential buildings to have a water tank for the collection of rainwater. When many thousands of household collect their own water, even if what they collect would only lasts for a month or two, would make a significant impact and create less strain on our water supply.

Gardens and parks are beautiful and we need those green lungs and many more trees in our cities, but native vegetation that requires a lot less water needs to be considered more and we will probably have to accept that huge grass areas are no longer sustainable in our present climate.

I am not a big fan of artificial grass, but is it something our governments should consider as an option? What do you think we could change and improve when designing new public open spaces?

Roel Loopers

MICRO BREWERY FOR FREMANTLE ENERGY MUSEUM

Posted in city of fremantle, development by freoview on June 14, 2015

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Developers MATCH are proposing a micro brewery for the mix-use development of the former Fremantle Energy Museum building at 12 Parry Street which has as neighbours across the road the Basilica and Clancy’s and is only a stone’s throw from the HEIRLOOM BY MATCH residential development of the former Dalgety Woolstore at Queen Victoria Street.

The proposal for a five-floor 4o residential apartments development and street level micro brewery would greatly assist the activation of the East of the CBD, where other new development is already under way or short before commencing.

The former Boys School as Princess May Park should also find new operators soon and I noticed development activity next to the Australia Hotel at Beach Road as well on Friday, so there is a lot going on in the east end of Freo.

Roel Loopers

FREMANTLE ESPLANADE FLOOD WORRIES

Posted in city of fremantle, esplanade, local government by freoview on June 11, 2015

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The Special Projects Committee of the City of Fremantle was interesting last night and it made me wonder how far ahead we should expect our governments to plan. It came as a surprise to me when the officers pointed out that at some stage in the future, because of rising sea water levels, the Esplanade Reserve could get flooded. Is that too far away to take into consideration now I wonder, or should we raise the level of the park? But if we raised the level water would have to go somewhere the officer warned and that might be running back toward the CBD. An interesting challenge for Freo Council.

Councillor Sullivan questioned where the events would go if moved from the Esplanade, while Councillor Pemberton asked what the healthy balance for the grass would be and how many events should be allowed to take place there and at what intervals. It is strange that this question gets only asked now and during the debate about a new Masterplan as that should have been considered a long time ago. Maybe the officers could take more leadership here and tell Council what it takes to keep grassed areas in parks healthy and how many events per year the surface can cope with.

The eventual relocation of the Carriage Cafe is still years away, if it ever happens and if the community is happy with it, but one of the reasons, that dropping limbs from the 110-year-old trees would endanger the safety of cafe patrons, made me ask the officer after the committee meeting if the trees around the playground were not of similar age. Planning officer Ian James told me they were and the City needed to keep an eye on them. It seems strange to me that the draft Masterplan does not specify that the playground, where hundreds of kids play on weekends, should be relocated to ensure the safety of the children and parents.

Interesting to note also that the proposed Masterplan considers extending the park all the way to the Shipwreck Museum. When I suggested during the Youth Plaza consultation that the carpark at the museum could be a good alternative location for the skatepark it was dismissed out of hand.

FICRA resident Chris Grisenwood rightly pointed out to me that we have now asked for years to have many of the things in the draft Masterplan and making it into an A Class Reserve is another one of them, including circulating events to other locations to put less stress on the park.

Six weeks community consultation, deep listening and common sense will hopefully make the new Masterplan a good document for the future of the Esplanade. It is the playground for all of Fremantle and beyond and an important green lung for the inner city.

Roel Loopers

FEWER EVENTS FOR FREMANTLE ESPLANADE

Posted in city of fremantle, esplanade reserve, planning by freoview on June 9, 2015

The proposed new Masterplan for the Fremantle Esplanade Reserve will be debated at Council for the first time tomorrow at the Special Projects Committee and while it will delight local residents and businesses it will probably get heavy thunder from Carriage Cafe owner Kel Smith.

The draft Masterplan by the consultants and COF officers proposes to progressively relocating large commercial events away from the Esplanade, as it could be concluded that such festivals as the Chilli and Jerome Laneway have outgrown the park.

For Kel Smith and the Carriage Cafe it looks as if the planned extension can be put on hold till after his lease expires in 2019, as the Masterplan draft proposes to create a so called ‘park hub’ between the Esplanade Youth Plaza and the Ferris Wheel to accommodate a cafe, shade structures, bike repairs and other short term entertainment.

The consultants believe the current location of the cafe is inappropriate in the long term and might become detrimental to the trees and that could endanger the cafe, patrons and staff. They also believe the (low) heritage value of the Carriage Cafe will be more apparent closer to the railway line

Larger mulch areas around trees to protect them will reduce the grassed area by 40% an way finding paths and restricted truck access are all considered to protect the grass that is seriously damaged and needs to be replaced totally.

It will be interesting to hear the debate tomorrow and see what changes the Councillors want to make, and the excessisve financial costs might make this a very long term project.

Roel Loopers

HOW DO WE CREATE GREAT CITIES?

Posted in development, fremantle, housing, perth, planning by freoview on June 9, 2015

I love being a photographer but in my next life I would not mind being a city planner as it fascinates me how to cater for such a diverse range of people and needs and blending reality and priority with the big dreams for the future.

Today has been fantastic to create more community debate with a great opinion piece in the West Australian by renowned WA Government Architect Geoff Warn, a blog post on two outer suburbs of the German city of Freiburg by Freo Mayor Brad Pettitt, and CUSP professor Peter Newman stating on ABC that building in backyards creates slums.

Let’s quickly dismiss Newman’s nonsense. Granny flats are great to cater for low income people but also as extra income B&B. Small residential blocks have been successful for centuries in Europe so the notion that we should either have quarter acre blocks or live in highrise along transit corridors, as Newman preaches, should be shrugged off as ideological narrow-mindedness. It also questions the City of Fremantle’s small dwellings policy.

Now to the far more positive and realistic stuff of planning great cities. As Geoff Warn writes in the West “A city is charactarised by the quality of housing and good cities embrace variety, accessibility and vitality.” But he also expresses concerns about bland, low-cost and profit-driven housing on the outer edges of the urban sprawl.

On one of my very rare visits to Perth today I was impressed with the hive of building activity, but also very disappointed with the very unimpressive architectural design quality of most buildings. The only buildings that stands out is the colourful and quirky Perth Arena but the rest is just boring.

What impressed me most in central Perth today was the great mural art. It works extremely well in the narrow laneways and they make a great contrast to the overpowering boredom of the highrises that dwarf them.

Geoff Warn writes “Good architecture and urban design contributes to a well-designed public realm…” That sadly seems to have been forgotten by most of the architects and city planners when it comes to the Perth CBD.

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt is very excited on his blog about two outer suburban developments in Freiburg, where cars are not parked in garages or carports but in a multi-storey carpark on the edge. Residents can only drop off and pick up and for the rest the streets are narrow to accommodate children playing safely. Brad also writes that public open space takes up to 30% of the developments, in contrast to WA where it is not even 10%.

I believe the message in this for Fremantle is not to try to copy these concepts in the shopping destination CBD but create suburbs like in Freiburg on the outer edges, e.g. Knutsford Street, and if it is not too late even the North Freo McCabe Street development could benefit from emulating some of what Freiburg has done.

To finish off I quote architect Geoff Warn one more time ” This is the time for more pragmatic research, for more in-depth dialogue and critical debate, and a shift in attitudes toward greater diversity, improved quality and sustainability.” Hear, Hear!!

Roel Loopers

ARE OVERSEAS IDEAS BETTER THAN HOME GROWN?

Posted in city of fremantle, housing by freoview on June 3, 2015

I enjoy Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt’s blog posts on his fact finding trip to liveable European cities, as there is always something we can learn. But I wonder why something from elsewhere always makes a bigger impression and people like our Mayor say we should do this in Fremantle. Take Brad’s blog on Hamburg for example.

The Mayor raves about affordable housing projects in the German city of Hamburg, where like-minded people get involved to create the environment they’d like to live in. I suggested something along those ideas in one of the many Freo Future 2029 workshops I attended, but it was not even mentioned in the elaborate document the COF published.

My idea at the time was to create affordable housing projects for e.g. artists and other creative people, with shared meeting and dining areas and open green spaces, maybe even sharing cars, scooters, bikes, washing machines, etc. Each project specifically designed for the needs of that specific group, so they take ownership of the creation.

I think this is a pretty good example of governments not listening well enough to the community, but spending a lot of money on overseas trips to get exited about ideas overseas, that locals at home also had, but went unnoticed.

It reminds me all a bit too much of when I hear people say that  WA artists can’t be very good if they have not had exhibitions in the eastern states and overseas. Believing that the best is elsewhere shows a lack of confidence in the place one lives in.

Roel Loopers

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