Twin Towers of Good Governance -Transparency and Accountability

(the photo at the top is from the Warders Cottages development proposal which goes to JDAP this Friday at 9.30am in the Fremantle Council Chamber – see below)

Fremantle Council issued a press release today headlined “Last Hurrah for Council Chambers.”

The mayor noted that in its 50 years the chamber had seen “memorable moments” like the huge crowd when the Esplanade Skate Park Plaza was voted through, the Kings Square plans and Amendment 49 (to allow developers to have high rise in Fremantle).

Ironically, these examples selected by the mayor were three highly controversial decisions of council – the skate park was contrary to council’s own Masterplan for Esplanade Park, upset locals, and should have been built in the car park and not on the green space of the park. The Kings Square Business Plan, like the controversial Markets Lease the mayor supported when he was a councillor, did not go out for public tender,  and there has never been a demand from the community for a new administration building. And, the MAJORITY of the community did NOT support the heights proposed in amendment 49.

The twin towers of good governance – transparency and accountability – have gone down, like the admin building, with the actions of Fremantle Council.

They will not rise again unless the community asks more questions and seeks better quality outcomes.

Warders Cottages

(Councillors meet ahead of their planning meetings and seem to formulate a ‘team’ view then of what outcomes should be for important planning agenda items. They seem to ignore the Fremantle Society view, as being one that is a ‘nuisance’ or ‘irritant’ to them, as though the Fremantle Society view is simply a narrow viewpoint. In formulating views and submissions on this isssue the Fremantle Society has consulted widely and has informed members of key aspects, as it has worked through the issues. We have consulted three staff at the National Trust, several staff at the Heritage Council, a conservation architect, the neighbors to the proposal, a former mayor, a senior retired architect, TV and print journalists, the former Premier of WA, and the Heritage Minister. The community is given very little time to respond to major issues, and to ensure transparency council should give much more notice of key developments).

The Warders Cottages issue is another example of a lack of transparency and accountability. The cottages, of national importance, have been poorly handled from day one, when council voted to support strata titling and privatisation of the cottages, contrary to expert advice and obvious best outcome being ownership remaining with the prison or another body like the National Trust.

At last week’s planning meeting, despite the officers admitting they had never seen the key guiding document for all the cottages – the 2016 Conservation Management Plan, the meeting proceeded, and not one councillor took any notice of the submission of the Fremantle Society. Councillors had no interest in discussing heritage, just how many patrons could fit into the beer garden.

The mayor states in today’s West Australian that tourists will flock to the cottages when the rear gardens have been totally eradicated and the rear aspect of the cottages ruined and obscured by second storey walkways.

It doesnt help that the Heritage Council, the ‘owners’ of the site and the decision makers about it, put a bulldozer through the rear gardens, aware that a proposal was before them for a beer garden.

For over 150 years these inner city cottages had their own inner city sanctum – a private garden, making them rare and highly important. But not one councillor stood up for the gardens. They should be reinstated.

The cottages are magical and have survived in good shape after 167 years. Any development of the site should be highly sensitive in order to keep the authenticity of the cottages and their gardens. THEN tourists will have something to salivate over.

The Fremantle Society and affected neighbours will make submissions on Friday to JDAP. There are six key issues with the current proposal:

a) Failure to address November 2016 Conservation Management Plan: The conservation plan has around 180 clear policies and the properties are sold subject to a Heritage Agreement which binds purchasers to follow the Conservation Plan. Policy 171 for example clearly states that only essential one storey structures can be erected in the historically important rear gardens, but two storeys are proposed.

b) Damage to nationally significant  British military colonial warders usage and garden significance: Based on previous work by the same applicant (Hougoumont Hotel), not enough sensitivity to the enormous heritage of the site will be shown in the works intended. The essence of the Heritage Act, in particular 11(3) states that “A decision making authority shall not take any action that might (whether or not adversely) affect to a significant extent a registered place or a place which is the subject of a Heritage Agreement”, but considerable changes are being sought.

c) Misjudgement of Heritage Council in stating that proposed works are ‘reversible’. The works are clearly designed to be for long term use and are not temporary.

d) Lack of car parking provided: Given that council is rapidly selling off its own car parks there is a need for cash in lieu to be paid if car parking is not to be provided.

e) Failure of Fremantle Council to properly assess proposal: Council’s Design Advisory Committee, which gives adivce on major developments, did not give comment on this proposal. Council’s own staff admitted at the planning meeting they did not know of the existence of a key document: the November 2016 Conservation Management Plan. Councillors did not discuss the heritage of the buildings and the site, but focussed on the size of the beer garden.

f) Adverse effects on residential neighbours of a 475 person capacity beer garden.

The Fremantle Society will request that the application be refused or modified to protect the heritage values of the cottages and their individual gardens.

John Dowson
President
The Fremantle Society
john.dowson@yahoo.com

Warders Cottages/AGM/Kings Square Urban Space

Warders Cottages Disgrace

(Above: important inner city gardens of Warders Cottages now destroyed)

Last night at Fremantle Council’s planning meeting, councillors voted through the proposal for a hotel and bar for up to 500 people in the rear gardens of the Warders Cottages, despite officers admitting they did not know of the existence of the 2016 Conservation Management Plan which clearly states that two storey tavern proposals like the one put forward are not allowed. Only Cr McDonald voted against the proposal.

The Fremantle Society presented relevant excerpts from the conservation plan to all councillors, but no councillor made any reference to the heritage of the cottages (except Cr Lang in a passing reference) in their deliberations, focussing on the alcohol issue and how many patrons could fit in the small space in the rear (former) gardens. And, these cottages are of NATIONAL importance.

The lack of interest in heritage and the gardens and  the lack of due process was astonishing, and a disgrace.

A boutique hotel may well be a good fit for the site, but again councillors were falling over themselves to do favours for a developer, one who already has a 5 storey approval in the West End, where 5 storeys are not allowed, and who has not yet committed to buy the cottages.

The issue will go to JDAP next week.

AGM

Reminder that the AGM is today Thursday 7 December 6.30 at the Fremantle Tennis Club.

Contact: 9335 2113 or 0409 22 36 22. Bring your friends.

Submissions due Thursday 8 December on Kings Square Urban Space

To help you with your submission, conservation architect Dr Bremen has kindly provided the following notes:

Notes on Kings Square: urban play space

Where is the up-to-date conservation plan for Kings Square that sets out what is significant and what should be protected in any changes made to the place? I do not mean the conservation plan for the Town Hall, or the Heritage Impact Statement for the new Council buildings, but a comprehensive conservation assessment and protection of the Square as a whole place, its definitions, its key buildings, its boundaries (streets and surrounding buildings), its landscape features and its open spaces. We all know it has been left out of the West End listing in the Heritage Council assessment, and we know perhaps why, to remove constraints from development in the area including Kings Square.

Such a conservation plan would include consultation with all stakeholders, including primary schoolers, and would lead to policies for change that protect and enhance the cultural values that the place already has, while planning for changes that are seen to be necessary, not just fashionable and suited to a small proportion of the users of the Square. No changes should be made to the Square without first testing them against the requirements for the retention of significance; a section always included in a good conservation plan for that purpose. (See Australia ICOMOS Burra charter, conservation planning processes and JS Kerr The Conservation Plan 2013).

Notes for a draft conservation management plan were prepared for Kings Square by Rob Campbell in 2015 and further developed for the use of students of conservation architecture as part of their course in 2016 and 2017. On the basis of that draft I can offer the following:

1.  The key to the children’s responses appears to be the mature shade trees; I presume they mean the Moreton Bay figs. These are highly significant items in Kings Square, with historic, aesthetic and social value. There are at least three that look sick. I hear that Council has sought advice on their care, and they should be saved. If they cannot be saved, they should be replaced with similar species, but it will take at least 20 years for any replantings of this species to become as large and attractive climbing and shady trees. Surely all efforts should go into the health of these significant trees first, rather than any new play space or elements. Similarly it is important that if they do become more actively used for children’s play, that this is carefully considered by horticulturalists to ensure that the trees are not damaged in the process.

2. Water play is fine in a private secured back yards, but ponds and play spouts in a public area are a known health problem (see Betty’s Jetty experience), not respected by people who do not have children playing in them, and they become filled with debris by accident or on purpose. This is going to happen to the ponds in the new basement library. Any water should be used to keep the trees and lawn alive, not for public playground amusement. Open water bodies are not part of this traditional town square, even though fountains were tried in the 1970s, these were always a problem and were removed. The only water play types that might be suitable would be temporary water points, more like drinking fountains with secure taps. Perhaps a horse trough for multiple users, doubling as a memorial, and removable if it does not work. What about pop-up water plays?

3.  The Square is bounded by four streets and contains two historic structures and six historic Moreton Bay fig trees. It is already full of statues and memorials, which add something to the social value and interpretation of people and place in the Square, perhaps they could become play structures if necessary. There is no room for new play structures.
The only open space left in the Square after the new Council buildings are erected will be in the St John’s Triangle, which is also their churchyard. Any new structures will crowd it still further and may not be appropriate for their uses of their land. I presume they are being consulted on all of this. If they are not comfortable with these developments, in the end, they will move out of the Square and leave the Square and the building for the rest of us to look after, and the significance of the Square will be reduced by the loss of its earliest and longest continuous user. It should be remembered that the church can also redevelop their land if they want to, having been given a marvellous precedent by the Council.

4. Play types that require safety or security fencing are not appropriate in this now confined public space; it further segregates and limits the people who can use the space as well as being visually intrusive. This is the only civic square of its type in WA. It should not be a suburban playground. Fremantle already has transformed the Esplanade Park into a playground. Council’s new design has swallowed up the playground they had in Kings Square, and given it back as a so-called civic lawn. Consider this as a children’s playground, as it has fences on three sides already, and does not look like it will be any good for anything else.

5.  For the conservation of the cultural values of Kings Square, the landscape should be opened up, not closed in. If it must host children’s playtimes, these must be carefully scheduled into the uses of Kings Square with only temporary equipment housed elsewhere when not in use, and with close and organised parental supervision onsite, with their take-a-way coffee in their hands, and not from inside a cafe nearby, and not with fencing or other forms of policing.

Dr Ingrid van Bremen 4/12/17

Wrightsons Hairdressers

About to be Destroyed

Norm Wrightsons Hairdressers has been at 7 William Street since 1933. Prior to that the shop was home to the famous Charles Nixon photographer from 1894 to 1933. Two businesses in 120 years!

Gerard O’Brien wants to relocate the hairdresser. The hairdresser doesn’t want to go. O’Brien wants this as the entry to his new brewery and wants to strip out the shops here and demolish the rear of all the shops.

He has allowed the rear of these heritage buildings to be painted without permission of the tenants to mask the heritage values of what remains.

Look at the single storied building with the very interesting air vent – probably part of the former Swansea Bicycle factory.

Save the Magic!

The hairdressers shop is unique. It is magic. It and nos 9 and 11 William should stay. AND it should have the double storey verandah on it restored as shown above when it was  home to Fremantle’s famous photographer Nixon until Wrightsons moved in in 1933..

The development proposal covers all the Manning Estate shops that begin with these three shops in William Street (built in 1886 before the others) and continue through the Mall and down Market Street to the Newport Hotel.

The Fremantle Society is keen to see people spend money in Fremantle restoring and upgrading their properties but this developer wants to make major changes to the shops – knocking down the rear sections of all the shops (some of which have significant heritage), remove various staircases, insert a large brewery where Norm Wrightson’s is right outside the entrance to the Town Hall, and separate the second floor sections of the various shops from their ground floor sections.

Submissions due on the whole Manning Buildings development on Tuesday 28th at 5pm..

Comments to:   planning@fremantle.wa.gov.au

And, to all councillors at: members@fremantle.wa.gov.au