Last night’s vote by Fremantle Council not to approve Sunset Events’ plan for a brewery and larger concerts at J Shed represents a massive shift away from previous, virtually unanimous, support.

Sunset Events has stirred public animosity against the organiser’s attitude to local residents regarding noise and antisocial behaviour and lack of access by the public to Arthur Head. In the face of public opinion, Sunset increased their requests to include a brewery and increased patronage.

Three of Fremantle’s major organisations opposed these plans. The Fremantle Inner City Residents Association (FICRA), Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association (FRRA) and the Fremantle Society have continually lobbied councillors in relation to all aspects of the support offered by council to Sunset.

Council has, until now, steadfastly ignored the public’s wishes. At last night’s meeting (22nd June) the Mayor, Councillors Pemberton and Wainwright declared conflicts of interest. It was notable that Andrew Sullivan was one of two councillors to support Sunset Events. The other was Councillor Hume.


One resident, who did not wish to be named, underlined public sentiment, commenting: “I assume … there will be more lobbying of the WAPC unless Sunset finally gives up, which attitude has not been characteristic of them so far”

He continued: “Perhaps it’s just my cynicism about everything to do with them, but I get a sense of lack of responsibility on the part of some elected members, of some sort of manoeuvring. They were so in favour for so long and dragged the community through all this for so long. Where’s the morality?”


There have however, been noticeable shifts in council’s attitude recently and these have to be applauded and encouraged. There is no question that the strengths of FICRA, FRRA and the Fremantle Society are growing. It is likely these organisations will support candidates in next year’s council elections to ensure a change of direction related to many issues. These changes must include unequivocal support for heritage boundaries, higher quality architecture, and height restrictions. The Fremantle Society does not support high rise buildings in heritage precincts and glass block architecture.

At the recent election debate the Fremantle Society questioned candidates in relation to their support for heritage values asking:

“In 1980 the Federal Government listed the West End of Fremantle as a precinct on its heritage database, where it remains unchanged today. Fremantle Council has proposed a heritage listing of a smaller area it still calls the West End, removing Arthur Head, the Esplanade, the railway station, and King’s Square. Would candidates support the original area being listed?”

This did not seem relevant to the candidates. However, the question is pertinent as the Federal Government’s 1980 listing of boundaries HAS not changed. The Fremantle Society will be asking our elected federal member to endorse the 1980 boundaries. The current precinct listing has whittled down to the West End leaving important areas as satellites. They include Arthur Head, The Arts Centre, Railway Station. A larger precinct will protect the entire against low quality, high rise developments. Currently the area is being whittled away from the edges.


Councillor Rachel Pemberton has endorsed the Fremantle Society’s moves to scrap the controversial DEVELOPMENT ASSESSMENT PANELS. Her support follows Mayor Brad Pettitt’s criticism of the State Government’s Development Assessment Panel (DAP)  revealed by The Fremantle Herald (June 10th  2016) in which he outlined councillors had voted against a plan for a six story development in Queen Victoria Street, Fremantle. Council’s decision was over turned by the DAP.

Rachel Pemberton attended a dinner organised by the Fremantle Society at which guest speakers explained their support for the “Scrap the DAP” movement which is now supported by at least nine of  WA’s Councils.

Ron Norris, Mayor of Mosman Park, and Subiaco Councillor Julie Matheson were guest speakers at the dinner, held at the Maya Indian Restaurant. They outlined  their councils’ opposition to the DAP and the chaos it has created. Nine councils in WA now support scrapping the scheme and simplifying the bureaucracy which surrounds the State’s planning processes.


Fremantle Council has to deal with several confusing design processes: The council’s own Design Advisory Committee; the council’s Planning Committee; the full council; the Metropolitan and South West Joint Design Advisory Panel (J DAP, the local DAP shared with Cockburn) and ultimately, the State Administrative Tribunal.

Fremantle Society President, John Dowson, introduced Mayor Norris and councillor Matheson and both outlined the complexity of systems which make it difficult for councils to make their own decisions related to matters of design and social impact. They also alluded to the potential for cronyism within the systems.

During a robust question time City Ward Councillor Rachel Pemberton stated she would do all she could to support the ‘Scrap the Dap’ movement.

The planning process must be simplified to ensure local councils have the final say on what is built in their communities. This may encourage councillors to look closely at the Fremantle Society’s support for high quality architecture. If the buck for poor development stops at the door of elected councillors there may be more chance they will listen to voters.



A timeline of the DAP process has been supplied by Fremantle Society committee member Adele Carles who opposed the DAP from the outset. These links will connect you to the material.

• May 2010 – The Liberal Government and the Labor Opposition supported the DAPs legislation in  the State Parliament.   Click on link to see Hansard debate  Approvals and Related Reforms (No. 4) (Planning) Bill 2009

•  2011 –  I wrote to all Fremantle Councillors advising them about the dangerous DAPs law that had now taken effect and them to tighten the Local Town Planning Scheme as this would bind future DAPs decisions.  Click link to read this letter        CBD Heights

 • 2012 – In a test case, the DAPs approved a development in Bayswater that the whole Bayswater Council had rejected. Again, I warned Fremantle Council that the only way to ward off future bad DAPs decisions in Fremantle was a robust, protective  Town Planning Scheme.  Click link  Chickens Coming Home to Roost on DAPs

2012 – Fremantle ignored my warnings and took the opposite action.  It unanimously amended its  Town Planning Scheme (amendment 49)  to INCREASE HEIGHTS  in the CBD of Fremantle.  It knowingly removed height restrictions in its Town Planning Scheme that previous generations of councillors had worked hard to secure.

 February 2012 – I tabled Don Whittington’s 442 strong petition in Parliament calling on the State Government to ensure the built heritage and human scale of Fremantle be protected Act to Protect Fremantle’s Future

June 2016 –  Brad Pettitt complains that the DAPS is bad for Fremantle!! Yes, we know this…we predicted this 5 years ago, but the horse has now bolted.  Click on link to read  Mayor gives DAPs a blunt assessment.





Liberal Candidate Withdraws from Election Debate

Pierette Kelly, the Liberal candidate for Fremantle for the Federal election, has chosen not to attend the only public debate at which all candidates could have been questioned by voters.

In a letter to Dr Martin Drum, Associate Professor of Politic at Notre Dame University,  Kelly said: “ … I have prior commitments set for the evening that will preclude me from attending”.

Drum replied: “Frankly, this is extremely disappointing. I find it hard to believe that as the Liberal candidate for Fremantle you have more important things to do tomorrow night than attend the one public debate for the seat you are running for.”

The debate, co-sponsored by The Fremantle Society, will go ahead. It is the only chance Fremantle voters have to question candidates in a public forum. It will be held at Tannock Hall on the corner of Cliff and Croke, Tuesday 21st June.  Arrive at 5.45 for 6.00pm start. The moderator is Paul Murray, columnist and former Editor of The West Australian.


The Fremantle Society is once again co-sponsoring the election debate hosted by Notre Dame University.

All members and friends are invited to ask questions of the candidates for the Federal seat of Fremantle.

It is very important that we assess which candidates are most likely to support the Fremantle Society’s objectives in order to help us pursue the  aim of preserving the city’s heritage and lifestyle.

Please come along to:

TANNOCK HALL Tuesday 21st June, 5.45pm

Corner of Cliff and Croke.

•Candidates for the federal seat of Fremantle have all been invited to a forum to answer questions from the public on Tuesday 21 June at The University of Notre Dame University (Tannock Hall of Education (ND4), corner Cliff and Croke Streets, Fremantle).

•Doors open 5.45 pm for a 6.00 pm start. The event will be moderated by Paul Murray, columnist for The West Australian. You can ask questions on the night via Twitter #freodebate or email them in advance to

•For more info contact Dr Martin Drum, Associate Professor in Politics at The University of Notre Dame Australia: Find out more.

•Early voting centre

You may be eligible to vote early if you’re unable to vote on election day (Saturday 2 July).The Fremantle early voting centre is at The Boathouse (Unit 3, 16 Mews Road). The early voting times are:

  • Monday 20–Thursday 23 June: 8.30 am–5.30 pm
  • Friday 24 June: 8.30 am–6.00 pm
  • Saturday 25 June: 9.00 am–4.00 pm
  • Monday 27–Tuesday 28 June: 8.30 am–5.30 pm
  • Wednesday 29 June: 8.30 am–6.00 pm
  • Thursday 30 June: 8.30 am–5.30 pm
  • Friday 1 July: 8.30 am–6.00 pm
  • Saturday 2 July: 8.00 am–6.00 pm (note: the centre will only be open to eastern states voters – all WA voters will have to attend a normal polling place).

West End Update

Dr Linley Lutton is an expert urban planner who two years ago warned about the damage Fremantle Council is allowing to the world famous West End. The photo below taken a few days ago shows the truth of his concern as the 8 Packenham Street Sirona development rises above the heritage buildings.

An abbreviated version of his letter is published on the Fremantle Society Facebook page but the 2014 letter from the Fremantle Herald is published below in full.



September 19, 2014 ·


IMG_1839 (1)

FREMANTLE city council is misusing its planning scheme to facilitiate poor development outcomes in Fremantle’s heritage-rich West End precinct.

The development industry argument that heritage hinders commercial progress is alive and well and people who try to voice their concerns are labelled “negative”.

Two over-height and poorly designed developments have now been approved in the West End (8 Pakenham Street and Atwell Arcade) because developers claimed extra height is needed in this height–restricted area in order to achieve commercially viable developments.

For years, in Perth’s CBD, cynical developers have shoe-horned characterless buildings behind heritage facades and this approach is now being applied in Fremantle where approving authorities are jumping to support their initiatives.

It was deplorable to hear that in Fremantle recently the council, at a specially convened meeting, listened to a conga line of commercially-focussed people speaking in support of the redevelopment of Atwell Arcade while one lone figure tried in vain to remind the council of its responsibility to heritage conservation.

What is glaringly obvious here is the powerful influence—both negative and positive—that sense-of-place has on urban dwellers is not understood. The unique sense-of-place associated with heritage environments is highly valued in most Australian capital cities because it offers respite from otherwise utilitarian intensity.

Sense-of-place triggers strong memories, attachments and behaviours at community and personal levels. Our very identities are shaped by sense-of-place. Fremantle’s West End precinct, regarded as Perth’s most valuable tourism asset, exhibits a sense of place found nowhere else in the Perth metropolitan area. This is largely due to its scale, streetscape and evocative architecture. Alarmingly, a pattern may be emerging which threatens the overall integrity of this very special place.

Inappropriate developments are now being approved in the West End by misusing a clause in the town planning scheme intended to protect Fremantle’s heritage character. The clause gives the council the capacity to vary any site or development provision, without limitation, in order to preserve heritage values.

However, it does not give the council carte blanche to disregard other broader aims dealing with a variety of issues including preservation of Fremantle’s character. Paradoxically, this powerful clause aimed at heritage preservation is being cherry-picked from a planning framework to facilitate developments which compromise heritage values.

There are two critical points here. First, the capability of a property to return a development profit is never a criterion used to assess development applications. Only in major urban redevelopment areas is it considered relevant.

Developers always push the envelope and in localities anxious to see development occur they will try to convince gullible decision-makers to accommodate greater demands. Regardless of how compelling a developer’s commercial argument may be it has no place in any development assessment process. It was highly inappropriate for Fremantle’s design advisory committee (DAC) to cite commercial capability as a reason to support the Atwell Arcade development. This is an issue well outside this DAC’s formal terms of reference. Additionally, there is nothing in Fremantle’s planning scheme which allows variations to site or development provisions to satisfy commercial capability.

Second, Fremantle councillors, and the DAC cannot work outside the totality of Fremantle’s planning framework, which comprises many interrelated documents thick with phrases such as: developments are to achieve an exceptionally high standard in terms of appearance; developments are to be distinctive befitting their location; and, developments are to complement and contribute to the community’s desired identity and character for Fremantle.

Additionally, the DAC must satisfy itself that a development promotes character by responding to and reinforcing locally distinctive patterns of development and culture. A third party objective assessment of the two approved projects would most likely conclude that neither satisfies the broad intent of many sections in Fremantle’s planning framework including the overall stated aim to protect and conserve Fremantle’s unique cultural heritage. The approvals could be open to challenge because they so obviously ignore many pertinent sections of Fremantle’s planning framework.

Precedent is everything in planning and the precedent is now set for increased heights and characterless modern buildings in the West End. Preservation of the community’s desired character for Fremantle, a clearly stated aim of Fremantle’s planning scheme, has been ignored in order to satisfy development-driven commercial gain. Future developers can now expect height increases anywhere in the West End, even when the design outcomes are perfunctory and the results are clearly visible from the surrounding streets. All they need do is maintain the building’s façade, which they should be doing as a matter of course in this precinct, make a few internal heritage preservation gestures and then propose whatever they like behind and above.  In the process the West End’s overall cohesive scale and unspoilt sense of place is eroded.

The Fremantle community should think long and hard about its attitude to the West End because your elected members and their advisory committee are beginning the process of erosion and the character of this special place is not replaceable.

Letter to Mayor and Councillors about King’s Square Business Plan

Dear Councillors,

The Fremantle Society has sought advice from a range of professionals regarding the Business Plan. We commissioned a licensed practising valuer to assess key aspects of the plan. The valuations of the properties are not the key elements of what is important, though one major developer told The Fremantle Society on two occasions that Fremantle Council was selling $50 million worth of assets for $29 million.

Amomg the key issues are the financial assumptions. We sent you our concerns in an article which quotes the licensed valuer, but not one councillor responded. To date, it seems not a single Councillor has sought independent advice to better understand the nature of these concerns. Referring questions about these issues back to the Mayor and City of Fremantle staff does not constitute independent advice.

As councillors you know that you have a fiduciary duty to ensure that you are properly informed to make a decision on this matter. Ignorance is and will be no excuse or defence in the future for the consequences of your decision if we pursue these issues through legal means if necessary.

Ten Things You Need to Know about the King’s Square Business Plan

1) While it is essential to do everything possible to get the 1250 Department of Housing workers to Fremantle, they do not have to be in a civic space like King’s Square. Kings Square should be used predominantly for civic, retail and residential purposes, with some commercial.

2) The financial assumption in the Business Plan that the new $47 million administration building will increase to $97 million in 20 years for the building alone is ‘absurd’ according to the licensed practising valuer commissioned by the Fremantle Society. It is totally illogical to say that the current administration building has zero value but that a new one will more than double in value in just 20 years to $97.7 million because it is promised to be a better built building. It is our understanding that NO single councillor has sought independent expert advice on that issue, and they should before voting.

3) The false assumption for the new building destroys the 6% claimed NPV, making it negative, and therefore NOT allowing council to borrow funds for it.

4) Council is selling the 850 car bay Queensgate for $16 million and then intends spending $15 million building a 400 car bay car park on the ‘sacred’ community site known as the Stan Reilly site. That is an unsustainable use of ratepayer funds.

5) Queensgate was earning $1,471,829 in rent in 2010 despite vacancies and some use of the building by council. The valuation of the building in 2012 was $15.9 and should have been sold then instead of emptying the building of tenants and waiting until Sirona was ready to purchase, meaning that when lost rent is taken into account and deducted from the heavily discounted sale figure of $6.3 million, ratepayers will be getting almost NOTHING for one of their prime assets.

6) Building a new administration building for the mayor, councillors and staff, along with an underground library the staff do not want, destroys half of King’s Square and prevents Fremantle getting a true civic square for the future as recommended by experts such as Ruth Durack and the Urban Design Centre using Geoffrey London, Adrian Fini, Richard Weller, Dominic Snellgrove, Patric de Villiers, and supported by others such as Ian Molyneux, Robert Campbell, Linley Lutton, and the Fremantle Society. If a new administration building is needed it does not have to be in the same location.

7) The designs proposed for Myer and Queensgate, which include building up to 7 storeys on part of the Queensgate site, not 6 as the mayor states, bring a Claremont Quarter style large box development to the heart of Fremantle which is foreign to and damaging of the heritage of the area.

8. The King’s Square Business Plan has so far failed to keep Myer and revitalise the city centre as proposed and the ratepayer is subsidising the developer Sirona, so the plan should not be extended but let lapse so that further negotiations can take place that do not keep having the ratepayer subsidising the developer.

9. There is no urgency to extend the plan yet again, because the extensions are simply more financial loss for the ratepayer and if the refusal to extend by Council triggers the purchase of the property by Sirona at least the $29 million will be available sooner rather than later.

10. If the plan is not extended but let lapse, council is in a position of strength to renegotiate a new deal which might exclude the necessity for example of Sirona building the administration building, a project the ratepayers cannot afford and which will do little to revitalise King’s Square except further damage the value of the civic square. Have the councillors satisfied themselves there are enough funds available to ensure a new administration building of the promised excellence, which has already gone up from $45 million cost to an estimate a couple of years ago of $52 million?

Besides commissioning a licensed practising valuer we commissioned a report on King’s Square which was part of our submission to the Premier when we met with him last week. They are attached.

(copies of those presentations can be obtained by writing to the Fremantle Society. We also presented a 37 page report to the Premier when we met him last week).

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society

24 April, 2016


ps  The photograph below shows the Claremont Quarter type box that will dominate the heritage civic centre of Fremantle, and the new administration building for the mayor, councillors, and staff to replace their existing one, which will further reduce King’s Square to King’s Triangle.

Real Estate - KS Fund 5