Fremantle’s heritage is a key economic asset that requires proper recognition that would facilitate adequate and ongoing investment in its protection.
The proposed listing of just the area west of Market Street to Little High Street by the State Heritage Office as a ‘place’ shows a failure of Fremantle Council to follow the advice of its own committee and $35,000 expert report. A committee was set up in 2009 to progress the State Heritage listing, thus protection, for the West End Conservation Area as defined in policies going back 26 years.
The West End Committee, a broad group representing business and council and community, recommended that the area to be listed be the whole of the West End Conservation Area which includes King’s Square, while omitting the already World Heritage listed Fremantle Prison, but adding the Railway Station. That agreement accepted the findings of the expert’s $35,000 report. At the time that recommendation had preliminary State Heritage Office support.
Fremantle Council have chopped that area in half and put at risk the future of what is Fremantle’s greatest economic asset — its heritage.
Listing only half of what the experts recommend is like putting half a roof on a house.
The Fremantle Society wants the proposed area to be expanded to cover the West End Conservation Area minus the Prison, along with the Railway Station (and Arthur Head), and thus have resolved to ask the State Heritage Office to review the current process.
Heritage Listing by the State Heritage Office gives recognition to places and allows more places to apply for a grant from a meagre pool of money available.
While heritage listing shows the importance of a place, it matters little if the State Heritage Office are weak and do not support the heritage values ascribed. State Heritage Office weakness was shown when they approved the overscaled ING proposal for Victoria Quay despite the area being listed by themas a heritage precinct since 1999. That development did not proceed for financial reasons. State Heritage Office weakness was also shown when they raised no objections to disastrously insensitive developments now going up at Atwell Arcade and 8 Packenhan Street in the West End Conservation Area.
The Fremantle Society will not stand by and see our future prosperity damaged by a lack of safeguards for the valuable heritage of our city centre.