Interesting to hear that Tony Simpson, Minister for Local Government, resigned from WA Parliament today, citing lack of leadership and policy.
This is the minister who properly messed up the local government reform and left local councils with tens of thousands of dollars in costs.
Councils wasted a year and a half on getting legal and other advise on amalgamations and boundary reform, and attended dozens of meetings, but at the end it came to nothing because the minister and his Premier were too gutless to see it through.
It is disappointing to read in the Fremantle Herald today that the Fremantle Society continues to oppose higher density and multi-storey buildings in the east of the CBD.
FS President John Dowson’s letter in the Chook is talking about human scale and against super high density housing, when he opposes the building proposed for the former Spotlight site at the Westgate Mall.
Dowson teaches us a bit of history of the area and it is nice to know that the paving leading into the Westgate Mall was taken in 1968 from the Point Street car park.
I have written about the eight-storey building before and believe it is ugly and should be rejected because of that, not because of its height.
Fact is the Point Street car park will be demolished and the Hilton Doubletree hotel built there. From memory that building will be six-storey high at Princess May Park and seven storey at Point Street, so it will step up just one storey to the proposed development a hundred metres away.
The east of the CBD has been a terrible eyesore for far too many years and has created an unsafe environment where people don’t even dare to wait for the bus, so improvement of the area is badly-needed and very welcome.
An eight-storey building is not highrise and the development of the Woolstores shopping centre site near it can go up to 11 storey under Planning Scheme Amendment 39. I was against the heights of PSA 49 as I believe the Woolstores and Gas&Coke sites should only go up to seven storey and only if exceptional architecture is offered should those sites be developed to up to nine storeys, but never higher than that! Sadly we lost that battle years ago and that can’t be reversed now.
We need to fight development battles in Fremantle on design quality and the insistence of heritage protection without compromise, not just on hight.
The Barnett Government demands higher density and infill from all metropolitan councils and it will take over if they don’t comply, so we are better off having our own Elected Members make those decisions. But those can still be overruled by the state’s Development Assessment Panels, as they did with the proposal for the ugly building next to St Patrick’s and the Fremantle Hotel. Freo Council refused the development application but the DAP approved it.
No matter how often the Fremantle Society baulks at change in Fremantle it will happen, because change is inevitable. What we need to do is insist on good change, not the mediocrity we are getting at the moment.
I believe planning changes need to be made at state level to insist on better quality and more creative buildings that suit the streetscape. If new buildings are truly outstanding medium height won’t be an issue.
W.A. Planning Minister Donna Faragher’s statement that higher density is needed near train stations is not up to the high standards we expect of a Minister. Making broad sweeping statements is plain wrong and surely the state government in collaboration with local councils needs to find the best suitable areas near public transport to increase density and infill, instead of demanding higher density near all train stations.
Older unique character suburbs like Fremantle, Claremont and Subiaco, etc. would be destroyed if we just planted highrise buildings close to the train stations, while in other newer suburbs high density might actually improve the amenity.
Governments have this strange attitude that change needs to happen everywhere instead of targeting suitable suburbs for higher density living. It would also help if the state actually supported local councils which want to increase infill by improving public transport corridors and not just along the railway line where most older suburbs are.
I received the information below from the Committee for Perth today and since infill and higher density is very relevant to Fremantle I copy it below:
Lunch Learnings: Densifying the Suburbs
At the latest Committee for Perth’s Perth in Focus luncheon, Densifying the Suburbs, Planning Minister the Hon. Donna Faragher opened the event by talking about the soon-to-be released Design WA report.
The Minister said the report would ensure that good design was also cost effective, functional, liveable, vibrant and sustainable and that design review panels would be standardised and prioritised to support DAPs.
Emma Booth, Team Leader Design at North Sydney Council, explained how the council had an on-again, off-again love affair with density since the 1950’s. The council is now focused on creating 12,000-14,000 new residences and 10,000 new jobs by 2031. To achieve this, they spent three years preparing and implementing a design strategy.
The key findings from the strategy are:
Start by mapping urban renewal opportunities.
Do density once and do it well.
Measure the financial uplift of density and capture part of the value to deliver amenity that benefits the community.
Good design is achieved through a design process not a static plan.
Densifying the suburbs also means densifying the land use mix.
There is no point increasing density around train stations without decreasing car use.
Density must be supported by commensurate public benefits.
Value capture is possible with an endorsed strategy.
Keynote speaker, Associate Professor Julian Bolleter, from the Australian Urban Design Research Centre at The University of Western Australia spoke about the findings in his book ‘Scavenging the Suburbs: Auditing Perth for 1 Million Infill Dwellings’.
The book examined how many infill homes could be created by better utilising land around Perth.
Associate Professor Bolleter’s provocative views are that Perth could infill more and contain sprawl if:
Each person in Perth only had 75m2 of garden space instead of the current 132m2 it would create 115,000 infill dwellings.
50% of publicly owned carparks had homes built above them and carparks below it would create 203,000 dwellings.
Freeway reserves were reduced, 50,000 new homes could be created.
10% of light industrial areas were developed for housing it would create 95,434 affordable homes.
The amount of public park space was reduced from 40m2 to 28m2 per person 144,000 homes.
Golf courses were reduced to 9 holes it would yield 86,000 homes.
10% of the foreshore was used for development it would create 62,000 dwellings.
While admitting it was controversial, Assistant Professor Bolleter said that if all of the recommendations were followed it would create 913,879 dwellings, obviate the need for 97 masterplanned communities the size of Ellenbrook and no greenfield homes would need to be built in Perth until 2036.
I don’t believe it is disrespectful to call Fremantle Society president John Dowson an enigma. The Pres. has just arrived back in Fremantle from a long stint in Europe and his latest letter to the FS members contains an interesting opinion on the controversial large deck at Kidogo Arthouse at Bathers Beach that was opposed by the State Heritage Council and rejected by the WA Planning Commission.
Dowson wrote” Joanna Robertson at Kidogo also has a fight on her hands – to prevent the removal of her new deck outside Kidogo. She is being told by the Heritage Council to remove the deck because it is detrimental to the heritage of the adjacent building. This is the same Heritage Council which approved a row of toilets in the same location, which would be far more detrimental. Joanna has indicated she is willing NOT to go ahead and build the toilets if she can keep the deck.”
Facts are that Joanna Robertson received approval to build a small toilet block and a small deck to accommodate the Kelp Bar, but she changed her mind and did not build the toilets but a much larger deck instead for which she had not applied for or given approval. For her to now say she would be willing to not build the toilets if she can keep the deck is insincere, as she has shown by building the deck that she has no intention buildings the toilets that would require part demolition of the new deck.
Not building permanent toilets would mean the regular appearance of very unsightly portable toilets in the significant Bathers Beach heritage area, so it is beyond me the Fremantle Society prefers that.
John Dowson’s swipe at the Heritage Council most likely comes because that office has proposed different boundaries for the West End Conservation Area than JD wants to see.
The Kidogo Arthouse deck saga will now go before the State Administrative Tribunal, so stay tuned.
Today is an important day for historic Arthur Head and Fremantle, with Sunset Events trying to get planning approval from the WA Planning Commission for an 850 patron tavern and 1,500 outdoor live music venue at J Shed on Bathers Beach.
The development application was rejected by Fremantle Council, but the Sunset Events directors did not want to take no for an answer from our local government and community representatives, although they are very aware of the community opposition to the tavern.
Fremantle Ports, FICRA, heritage organisations, neighbours, Roundhouse volunteer guides, J Shed artists, etc. have all loudly voiced their opposition to the plans and even more so since the trial period last summer showed what negative impact a tavern and live music venue would have on tourism at Arthur Head and the lifestyle of inner city residents and businesses.
The WAPC ruling won’t be due till the end of the week, so stay tuned!
A little bit more detail has emerged about the Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association engaging prominent Cottesloe lawyer John Hammond to investigate the Kings Square Project deal between the City of Fremantle and Sirona Capital.
John Hammond told the West Australian ” He would investigate whether the city had complied with the Local Government Act.”
This implies that FRRA believes that Tony Simpson, Minister for Local Government failed to do his job properly when they asked him last year to investigate the matter, and the minister declared it was all above board.
It should not take long then for John Hammond to do that investigation as the Local Government Act should be pretty straight forward.
Let’s hope it can all be dealt with fast so the project can commence as soon as possible so the square comes alive again.
The WA Liberal/National State Government has so far spent a staggering $ 11 million on the preparation of the sale/49-year lease of Fremantle Ports, according to media reports.
Treasurer Mike Nahan confirmed they had spent that huge sum of money on consultants and exterior advise, although the National Party and Labor Party are against the sale, so it most likely won’t eventuate with the state election due in March 2017 and a probable change of government.
The present government has shown an insane lack of care for our state’s finances and a willingness to irresponsibly waste money at their leisure.
I realise the Kings Square Project and its handling by the City of Fremantle has divided community opinion, which has now resulted in the Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association engaging prominent lawyer John Hammond to try to stop the development.
I also know that by publishing this article the same opponents will bring up the same arguments we have read many times and heard at Council and during public meetings. I don’t want to rehash all the pros and cons, but ask what it would mean for Fremantle if a court challenge succeeded.
The first hurdle is probably that the Department of Housing would not sign a long-term lease with Sirona Capital unless it can guarantee that the development will go ahead within an appropriate time frame, so even if the legal challenge is not successful it could delay the Kings Square Project substantially.
The legal and financial ramifications for the City of Fremantle and its ratepayers, should a court challenge to stop the development be successful, could be enormous, as it is likely that Sirona Capital would want compensation in the millions of dollars from COF. It is also likely that Kerry Hill Architects which won the Civic Centre architect competition would want compensation if the building is cancelled.
At the end we could end up with huge costs to the City and no development at Kings Square, and that would be a huge shame in my opinion.
It is very disappointing that the Kings Square Project public relations has been so inadequately managed by the City and has left too much room for doubt, although many Councillors made very strong presentations and assured the community they had listened to and challenged expert consultants and staff and were satisfied they had crossed all the Ts and dotted all the Is.
I do support the Kings Square Project because I believe substantial inner city development is essential for Fremantle to grow and become a shopping destination again, but I am disappointed about the lack of transparency and the City citing commercial confidentiality.
A few hundred dissatisfied Fremantle residents who are not happy with the answers they received about the financial details, will now question the democratic process and the right for local government to make tough decisions, sell assets and invest in the future. It will be very fascinating to hear the legal arguments in court.
Whatever the outcome, I fear this will do serious damage to brand Fremantle when it has just started a very good recovery process of many new buildings in the CBD and many more planned for the very near future. It makes me sad that we are such a divided community and that there is so much negativity and political point scoring. There will be no winners at the end of it.