Fremantle Council: Developing at all Costs
On 4 September 2019, Fremantle Council’s Planning committee approved an office block 5.7 metres over the permitted height allowed in its own town planning scheme.
Councillors fell over themselves in puerile delight at the prospect of another big box being built in the heritage town of Fremantle, similar to those from the white shoe brigade days of the 1960s.
Mayor Pettitt: “This is an exciting development. Hope this is the first of many in this area”.
Cr Hume: “Let’s see more of this in this area.”
The picture above shows the intended 6 storey plus basement plus junk on top office building on the corner of Josephson and High Streets.
The project is intended for a site that is currently a car park owned by Fremantle Council and controversially sold with conditions (that reduced the value of this ratepayer asset) in a deal with Yolk Property (who built the much criticised 4 storey red brick apartment block in Pakenham Street recently).
More controversially, the land may not even be Fremantle Council’s to sell, according to neighbours who had an innovative scheme for the site by a top Fremantle architect rejected out of hand. They contend the land was created by demolishing heritage houses in the 1960s in order to widen Josephson Street, but as that never happened, the land should have reverted to the Crown.
This is what Fremantle Society President John Dowson said to the Planning Committee:
“Last time I addressed the planning committee and complained about Fremantle Society submissions being ignored, Cr Fitzhardinge asked why did I think that was so? Perhaps Council thinks the opinions expressed come only from John Dowson (so what if they did!). Perhaps it is because of council group think. But the Fremantle Society canvasses widely for expert opinion. Tonight we quote former Fremantle Design Advisory Committee member Sasha Ivanovich, who sits on other DACs.
The Fremantle Society supports good development. This 6 storey development sounds different and sounds interesting, but like previous Yolk Property proposals for Fremantle it seeks to get height beyond what is allowable.
Developers should be judged on what they do, not what they say. I remind councillors of the utterly dismal 4 storey apartment block built by Yolk in Pakenham Street and described by one former councillor as the worst building in the West End. In the view of many it has permanently disfigured one of the nation’s great heritage precincts.
Tonight’s proposal sits in an entry area to Fremantle from Queen’s Square with important one and two storey heritage buildings like 185 and 195 High Street along with Victoria Hall. It is incredible that officers argue that non-conforming nearby buildings such as Crane House and Johnston Court can be used to justify no- conforming height above 17.5m.
You may not remember that when council dealt with the set-back top storey on Crane House some 17 years ago, Professor George Seddon, who lived up the hill, and who was the most highly decorated planner in Australia, wrote a blistering letter to council about the need to address planning-error boxes like Crane House, and undo mistakes, rather than adding to them. His letter was ignored.
This is the written advice the Fremantle Society received from architect Sasha Ivanovich:
“The proposal should demonstrate more interest and articulation to the east and west facades first to upper floors and have further interaction at ground level.
The fact that graduation in height to adjoining buildings is not required to be considered does not justify giving height concessions above 17.5m of the scheme and extending it by 5.4,. What is the purpose of the current scheme? What will the approval of extended height mean for any neighbouring development? Will they also argue for exceeding the height of this building?
At least insist on a setback of 2.5m from the street boundary above 17.5m – a very commonly used device to retain the uniform character of the street in keeping with the planning scheme.”
The Fremantle Society agrees and asks that someone on the committee move that the top floor be set back 2.5m.
(The above was ignored, though Cr Waltham did question the extra height.)