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

AGM and Picture Palaces of the Golden West

Legend Vyonne Geneve, founder of the WA Art Deco Society, gave Fremantle Society members a real treat last Thursday night at the AGM with a talk focussing on the inter war history of Fremantle and its various art deco buildings.

A couple of copies of her wonderful book are still available ($60, which includes a free $35 copy of Fighting for Fremantle). Call John Dowson 9335 2113

The AGM showed that the Society is still in a strong financial position, with hundreds of members. President John Dowson outlined some of the many projects undertaken during the year and the many submissions made.

For 2018 John Dowson will continue as President, with Jack Turnbull as acting honorary treasurer, and a committee including Mike Finn, Agnieshka Kiera, Adele Gaskin, Robert Bodkin, and Ian Molyneux.

Submissions Due today on Police Complex

Yes, you have Christmas shopping to do, but you may want to make a submission today (or tomorrow should still be acceptable to planning@fremantle.wa.gov.au) on the 31-41 Henderson Street former courthouse and police courthouse and warders cottages complex.

Gerard O’Brien bought the large site of around 8000 sqm. He has rushed plans into council to get ahead of Sirona, who are apparently still running around  trying to get their money together. Gerard O’Brien of Silverleaf, with major plans for Coles Woolstore site, Mannings Buildings and the police complex, will be keen to get tenants ahead of his rival developers Sirona and the City of Fremantle.

The police complex proposal is for a 6 storey hotel and bars.

To help you, the following comments may be of use:

a) The 6 storey hotel proposal is too high for this heritage area and should be limited to 4 storeys. The developer references the Myer building, but that is too far away and is not a good precedent. Even the Queensgate car park opposite should not be used as a precedent, as it is a damaging anomoly in a heritage precinct.

b) The heritage impact statement prepared for the developer is deficient given this site lies in the buffer zone of the world heritage listed prison. It states that this proposal has POSITIVE benefits for the Fremantle Prison and approach but provides little supporting detail.

c) Effect on adjacent Artillery Hall: No mention is made in the heritage impact statement on the effect on the Artillery Drill Hall two metres from this site, where Sunset Events have a tavern licence for 900 people.

d) Parking: The number of car bays required under the town planning scheme are not being provided and nor is cash in lieu being asked for. Given that council is busy selling off its car parks and that most of them are being built on, the situation for essential parking is unsustainable. Existing businesses are being penalised by having newcomers take their car bays without having to contribute.

Lack of Good Public Consultation

The community is not being given a heads up on major developments and has very little time to respond. Fremantle Ports for example, despite having little interest in new developments in town, were asked back in October what they thought of this proposal. Key relevant interested groups like the Fremantle Society and the National Trust should be given notice of what is in the pipeline months ahead.

Membership Fees Due

Please pay your membership fees now.

BSB 633 000

Acc  143193530

(please note on your bank transfer some detail so we can identify you!)

We encourage you to consider becoming a Life Member for $250, but by sending in at least $30 for single and $40 for family membership you are enabling us to commission the reports that have become a major part of our work.

If you have a particular project you would like to see and would like to fund it, please contact us!

Compliments of the Christmas Season

John Dowson
President
The Fremantle Society

john.dowson@yahoo.com

9335 2113

0409223622

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

Another Tsunami

The elections are over. Developers are rushing into council to lodge their plans. Some of the plans are distressingly crass and damaging to the heritage values of the town. A significant focus of the plans appears to be: more alcohol.

Members are asked to take note of the following, and to be involved in putting their opinions forward. The Fremantle Society is in the process of writing submissions.

Comments:

TO PLANNING DEPARTMENT: planning@fremantle.wa.gov.au

TO MAYOR AND COUNCILLORS: members@fremantle.wa.gov.au

TO LOCAL MEDIA: news@fremantleherald.com

TO FREMANTLE SOCIETY: john.dowson@yahoo.com

1) Warders’ Cottages 19-29 Henderson Street

11 room hotel and bar

COMMENTS CLOSE 14 NOVEMBER

The developer and architect of the Hougoumont Hotel in Bannister Street has submitted this application. While the Hougoumont gets great reviews, it is a very modern experience more akin to staying in a shipping container than a heritage building. It has been granted approval for 5 storeys for its next stage, possibly a technically illegal approval given the rules for the West End.

If members examine the plans submitted for these terrace cottages, which are of national significance and the ONLY properties in the whole of Western Australia outside the prison to be on the Federal Heritage list, they may find the plans swamping the original cottages and their backyards with the added infrastructure. A huge focus is alcohol – it’s an 11 room boutique hotel catering for up to 475 drinkers. No wonder there have been 15 submissions already from concerned residents who have just bought next door in the other 6 Henderson Street cottages, and others.

2) MHI Review

You are asked to comment on a review of the Municipal Heritage Inventory. See document online.

COMMENTS CLOSE 17 NOVEMBER

3) Mannings Buildings

The Fremantle Society broke the story that Gerard O’Brien of Silverleaf was going to buy all 26 shops in the Manning Estate that wraps around from William Street, through the mall and into Market Street. He has now submitted plans to ‘revitalise’ them by turning them into: a brewery. He also wants to ‘modernise’ and open up the interiors and thus remove a reason people like coming to Fremantle – it has small individual shops with character.

10 metres away across the Mall lies the Atwell Arcade project done by Gerard O’Brien of Silverleaf. The mayor granted him a special council meeting for this development on the basis that a) a new national chain would be brought to Fremantle (it wasn’t) b) 300 new workers would be brought to Fremantle (they weren’t) and c) the building and shopfronts would be restored (they haven’t been).

There will be a public information session on November 16 at 5.30pm at Council.

COMMENTS CLOSE 28 NOVEMBER

4) King’s Square Public Space Draft Concept Design

The Fremantle Society position is that King’s Square is important as the only town square in Western Australia and that it should be a dignified open civic space, not a cluttered entertainment zone.

COMMENTS CLOSE 8 DECEMBER

5) Woolstores Shopping Centre and Car Park

Gerard O’Brien of Silverleaf has submitted plans so awful that even a council employee told the Fremantle Society “For the first time I will be making a submission.”

The proposed high rise soars 50% higher than the 10 storeyed Johnston Court, whose height in the middle of town we were promised would never be repeated. To achieve this height the design MUST show ‘exceptional quality’. Council will say that the determining authority is JDAP (Joint Development Assessment Panels) but the reality is that what council writes and thinks is crucial to getting a good outcome. When the initial plans for a new Queensgate also had to pass the test of demonstrating ‘exceptional quality’, the mayor argued that the view from the top would be so good that he would be voting that that was enough to demonstrate the requirement. Hopefully, council will debate this one a bit harder that that.

COMMENTS CLOSE 22 NOVEMBER

6) Court House and Warders Cottages 31-45 Henderson Street (see photo above)

Gerard O’Brien of Silverleaf has submitted plans for a 6 storey hotel and bars in one of the most significant heritage precincts in Western Australia. which covers the 7,700 sq m court house and police station complex and the adjacent warders’ cottages (the latter bought for the bargain price of $1.7 million).

The Fremantle Society will study the plans, which seem at first glance to be remarkably insensitive to what is a dignified and important set of colonial buildings, some (the terrace houses) being of national significance.

These buildings are in the buffer zone of the World Heritage Listed Fremantle Prison for good reason, and any development in the buffer zone must not impact negatively on the setting of the prison.

Public information session 30 November 5.30pm at Fremantle Council.

COMMENTS CLOSE 11 DECEMBER

Notre Dame Breaches its Own MOU

Notre Dame announced today it has purchased the massive Customs Buildings fronting Henry, Phillimore, and Pakenham Streets.

This is in direct breach of the 2012 MOU it has with Fremantle Council, where the MOU states that the university, having created a monoculture with its hugely successful business controlling 46 buildings in the West End, would in future build outside the West End:

“The City encourages UNDA to expand its academic activities to locations throughout the CBD and expresses the wish that any expansion should not be immediately adjacent to the area bounded by Little High Street, Phillimore Street, Henry Street, Marine Terrace.”

John Dowson
President
The Fremantle Society