Norm Wrightson’s Under Threat – Still

Why Isn’t this Iconic Fremantle Business valued?

Last year we drew your attention to the iconic Norm Wrightson’s hairdressers in William Street, which was slated for removal to another location without the owner’s knowledge or consent – to be replaced by a brewery (right outside the front door of the Town Hall).

The owner won the battle to stay where he is, for now.  The Fremantle Society campaigned to save the iconic business and to have Gerard O’Brien of Silverleaf restore the shop to its original glory as shown in the photograph above. With support from Cr Archibald, a former President of the Fremantle Society (and Mayor), council approved allowing Silverleaf to spend the $100,000 percent for art money putting back the wonderful ornate verandah shown in the image, instead of ugly public art like the three metal poles nearby which Silverleaf had to pay for as part of their as yet still unfinished Atwell Arcade project.

But the owner of Norm Wrightson’s is distraught with what he sees as bullying from Silverleaf, whose construction works are affecting his business. He alleges that workmen are trespassing on his business premises without the required permission being sought.

The top photograph shows recent damage to his rented premises.

Norm Wrightson’s has been a barber shop since 1933 in this location. 86 years. The first business in that building was the famous photographer shown above, who lasted there for over 40 years.

Norm Wrightson grew up upstairs in the building, and by age 13 was helping his father in the barbershop cutting kids’ hair. During the war there were no shopfronts- the windows being taken out and boarded up in case of air raids. After the war when Norm took over from his father he employed Italian hairdressers to help him. He called them “Ding” and they called him “Aussie Bugga”.

The current owner of the business Morteza is not paying high rent to make money. Business is tough. He is passionate about the history of Fremantle, and wants to see the traditional barbershop with great haircuts, shaves and flat tops continue. That is why he is battling Silverleaf and trying to survive.

Why isn’t this iconic business valued? Why isn’t he feted and offered a long lease? As businessman, and Fremantle Society committee member, Mike Finn said: “An iconic business like this needs to be nurtured and given concessions.”

Book a haircut:  9335 3546

Federal Hotel

Meet Your Committee Dinner

Have you booked your half price dinner for Tuesday 20 August 7pm at the Federal Hotel?


Royal George Hotel

See Fremantle Herald (p3)  August 10 for report on East Fremantle Council meeting on Royal George Hotel.

Planning by Force – The Royal George Hotel Scandal

Special Meeting of Town of East Fremantle to Discuss Royal George Hotel

“Planning by Force”

The Fremantle Society exists solely to lobby for high quality developments and to protect the heritage values of Fremantle and surrounds.

Hundreds of hours have been spent recently putting together expert submissions and working with stakeholders.

But as a senior staffer at the Town of East Fremantle said last week, the bullying tactics of the WAPC criticised by Liberal MLC Simon O’Brien above have led to a “Planning by Force” regime from the government.

Mr O’Brien stated: “There are people in the WAPC (Western Australian Planning Commission) following an agenda which is about maximising the hypothetical levels of development, and that’s the wrong way to approach things.”

Similarly, the Heritage Council, a developers’ club diluted with planning department staff who refuse to accommodate Town of East Fremantle requests, have not stood up for the heritage values of the Royal George Hotel.

Please note:

Wednesday 7 August at 6.30pm: the Town of East Fremantle are holding a special meeting to discuss the Royal George Hotel amendment.

Tuesday 20 August at 6.30pm: the Town of East Fremantle are holding a council meeting to consider modifications to amendment 14 (Roofing 2000 site at 91 Canning Highway).

Along with hundreds of others, the Fremantle Society made submissions on the proposed scheme amendments. Very few indeed support Saracen Properties and their desire for a huge apartment block abutting the historic hotel.

The 170 page report on the Royal George Hotel going to council recommending it accept the 7 storey ‘compromise’ is not a victory for the community as some claim, as it will seriously damage the hotel’s landmark status in the George Street heritage area.

The whole issue has been a travesty from the day Alannah MacTiernan handed the hotel to the National Trust without informing the Town of East Fremantle, in the process of handing the hotel to a developer for just $570,000.

The former head of the National Trust Tom Perrigo is just as annoyed and frustrated as everyone else. He wrote:

“Demand a public debate – I will participate.

Demand a corruption investigation – I would participate.

Demand an independent ruling by SAT – I would participate.”

Meet Your Committee. Save Money.

Fremantle Society Half Price Dinner: Tuesday 20 August at 7pm.

Meet Your Fremantle Society Committee.
Half Price Food!

The Fremantle Society invites you to the glorious Federal Hotel, which has been serving good food and cheer since 1887, for a half price meal.

Meet your committee.

Those present will include:

President John Dowson

Secretary Chris Williams

Treasurer Adele Carles

Mike Finn

Robert Bodkin

Peter Scott

Apologies: Agnieshka Kiera (working overseas), Roger Garwood (working overseas), and Ian Molyneux (ill)

Please send an email to confirm your booking, to John Dowson, President:

0409 223622

Looking forward to catching up!

Good Planning is not a Popularity Contest

Apartment Towers for Boat Lifters’ Site?

1) Protect the Fishing Industry 2) Extend Norfolk Street across the railway 3) Allow LOW scale development

The proposed development of the very large Boatlifters’ site (top centre left) in Fishing Boat Harbour could be a great step forward in giving the public better access to the waterfront, and useful facilities.

But only if the needs of the fishing and boat industry continue to be met, and if high rise is not part of the mix.

The West Australian asked the Fremantle Society for its opinion, and this is what we replied:

At this stage the Fremantle Society supports low scale commercial development of the site if the developer is prepared to facilitate the extension of Norfolk Street into the site with a jetty at its terminus, in order to better link the town with the water, and give public access to the area. The development must be guided by council policies and expert opinion.

The last thing the working harbour needs is high rise apartment towers of 10 storeys as hinted on the front page of the Herald this week.

The community is asked to fill out a survey for the developers by August 26, but nowhere in the survey does it state there exists policies (especially height) to guide the development. Good planning is not a popularity contest. Most people will tick the boxes for more shops and coffee and better access, but a working fishing boat harbour in a heritage town is more than that.

Thank goodness the overscaled proposal pushed by the Labor Party in 2007 (second image) was never built, but at least it didn’t try to bring in high rise there. The Minister responsible then, Alannah MacTiernan, at the same time was trying to ram the ING high rise development down Fremantle’s throat across town on Victoria Quay, despite the opposition of 76% of Fremantle people, and the Fremantle Council back then (now in 2019 Alannah is back in town sprucing high rise on Victoria Quay again).

The mayor encourages people to fill out the online survey, but he should be emphasising three key council policies that the survey avoids altogether:

a) DGF10 – the third image above is taken from it.
b) Local Identity Code (on council’s website)
c) Fremantle Council Urban Design Strategy

The future of the Boatlifting facility is a key issue. In the June 2007 Department of Planning Background and Context to the Formulation of a New Fremantle Harbours Policy it states (p18): “Council has adopted the DGF10 to guide development of the Fishing Boat Harbour. This policy was developed jointly with the Department of Planning…….According to the Council’s Heritage Planner, it is the council’s long term plan to relocate the boat repairing industry along Mews Road.”

In order to reunite Fremantle with the waterfront in this area, project 6 of council’s City Centre Urban Design Strategy states that Norfolk Street should be extended through Mews Road into the Boat Lifter site. Council policy DGF10 proposes in the attached drawing a jetty at the end of that extension.

The fourth image above is from the Local Identity Code found on Fremantle Council’s website, a set of development guidelines that cost $140,000 to develop and seem to be ignored by those who should know better. It emphasises the need for low rise development in that area.

Will the new Heritage Act be any good?

This week the Fremantle Society trotted along to Guildford to the building shown above, to hear about the new Heritage Act from Heritage Council officers, and to congratulate the Guildford Society for getting the whole of the Guildford Historic Town heritage listed. The Fremantle Society only managed to get half the original West End listed, as the Fremantle Council wanted to allow developers more freedom in the centre of town.

The gentleman above outside the building was rather early for the meeting, 150 years early in fact, as the image is a detail of a sensational, and yet to be published, photograph c. 1866.

The new Heritage Act came into force on July 1. In the first 29 years of the Act, the only change had been to increase the penalties in 2012 from $5,000 to $1 million.

It appears the new Heritage Act will seek more skills-based members to be on the Heritage Council. That can only be a good thing, given the reputation of the Heritage Council in recent years as little more than a developers’ club.

Listing processes will be streamlined and the interim heritage listing stage abolished. Similarly, the Heritage Council must meet tighter deadlines in dealing with providing advice.

Concern was expressed at the meeting that stakeholder consultation comes too late in the listing process.

Concern was also expressed that the Heritage Council appears to be more and more delegating decisions to local councils, when two sets of eyes on a heritage project are preferable.

Aboriginal heritage will still be covered by separate legislation, which itself is under review.

The key point is that NO extra funding is being made available to provide the carrots along with the sticks for heritage property owners. Not a single extra dollar.

Fremantle Society Urges Fremantle Council to Restore Their Buildings Properly

North Fremantle Grandstand Not Good Enough for Proper Restoration

There are too many examples in Fremantle where Fremantle Council is not setting the standard when it comes to heritage maintenance and restoration. Today we take a look at the Gilbert Fraser Oval Grandstand in North Fremantle. We were asked by a local company director to investigate. After several letters to council our concerns have been dismissed and local councillors have not responded, because reinstating wooden railings costs more money than steel. But the grandstand is a level 1B building, rated by council to be of ‘exceptional significance’.

The top photo was taken in 1917 just after the grandstand was built. The second photo is photographer Roel Looper’s image from Garry Gillard’s excellent Fremantle Stuff website where valuable information on Fremantle can be found, including a copy of the report John Dowson wrote in 2013 for FICRA titled “Heritage Assets of Fremantle- why so Neglected?” The third photo is the other neglected football grandstand, at Fremantle Oval.

Below is the second letter to the Fremantle Council, which has been ignored. Please support us in this issue by writing to the CEO:

North Fremantle Grandstand

Thank you for the prompt response to our letter.

However, your rationale for the metal railings is not acceptable to the Fremantle Society.

Fremantle Council has an obligation to do the right thing with heritage buildings under their control, and set the standard for the rest of the community to follow. There are now far too many examples of this sort of unacceptable work being carried out, or allowed, in this heritage town.

It is disappointing to see this grandstand, rated level 1b significance in your own heritage inventory, being treated thus, in addition to the poor continuing state of the other football grandstand under your control at Fremantle Oval [third photo above], which the Fremantle Society and South Fremantle Football Club have been trying to get repaired for years.

Council decided, we understand, to do works on the grandstand and had the opportunity with the schedule of works to rectify the non-conforming metal railings from the 1980s and restore the wooden ones.

You state that the right thing was not done because it would have been ‘cost prohibitive’. Could you please send us the estimates for the cost of doing the metal and the wooden railings [they show a cost differential of $40,000].

The North Fremantle Grandstand is, according to your own documents,  part of ‘the most significant recreation area in North Fremantle’ and has ‘high aesthetic values’ and ‘strong landmark qualities’.

Above at the top is a photo of my grandfather Harold Dowson (right) during World War One in 1917 next to the almost brand new grandstand of 1913.

Lieutenant Dowson, officer commanding No. 4, Electrical Company Corps, the first militia engineer officer in the State, would not be impressed. Neither is his grandson.

Please reassess the works.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society
July 2019