Are you an Advocate?

This week I asked Bruce Gilden, the famous street photographer, how he thought humanity was progressing. Obviously, from much of his work, he thinks its not doing well. He said he has plenty of issues still to fight for. Bruce uses his camera to be an advocate for humanity, and for his issues.

Are you an advocate?

The last email from the Fremantle Society was headed Distressing News and it was the most upsetting news reported on for a long time, that of the destruction of majestic Moreton Bay Fig trees in King’s Square.

The email evoked a strong response, with one criticism that there was no ‘call to action.’ There should be no need for a call to action. The Fremantle Society repeatedly has asked members to be advocates, and not passive bystanders, because the very organisations that should be advocating and protecting, have been silenced by developer interests. The Heritage Council is a developer’s club, the National Trust is useless as an advocate, the Fremantle Herald cannot lead campaigns on its own, and the very few public commentators like the blogger Roel Loopers are only concerned with being popular.

One member did write to the Herald and did not have his letter published, but newspapers are not owned by the public and sometimes repeated efforts have to be made to get attention.

The Septimus Roe Regency planning for King’s Square, and decades of advocacy for a proper town square are now right out the window, and the bizarre sight of the $300,000 a year CEO and $150,000 a year mayor with sledgehammers outside the doomed adminstration building this week was surreal.

Members advocacy will be needed for many more issues, and one of them is below.

J Shed – Again

The distressing, long running disgrace of the J shed issue comes to council again tonight and members should make their feelings known at the meeting or before to:

members@fremantle.wa.gov.au

There should be no lease for large alcohol fuelled events at Arthur Head supplanting the excellent long term record of the artists there. The mayor on his blog rationalises the damage to an A class reserve by postulating that the area has changed over the years. So what?  As the late Rob Campbell has said, it was saved from other authorities in the 1960s who were using it as a dumping ground, and turned into an A class reserve through the hard work of Fremantle Council.

The current council believes that an alcohol led recovery will save Fremantle, and that belief has led to some extraordinary support for alcohol in very strange places such as at the traffic island where the Fremantle Weighbridge is.

Thankfully, freshly elected councillor and former Fremantle Society president Jenny Archibald, is showing strong interest in this issue and is asking tough questions of her fellow councillors.

Thankfully also, in the battle waged by the Fremantle Society to save Norm Wrightson’s business and shop being turned into a brewery outside the front door of the Town Hall, the developer Gerard O’Brien has apparently shelved that idea.

Rob Campbell Event Friday 25th May

You are invited to an event organised by the Fremantle History Society this Friday at the Fremantle Arts Centre in honour of the later Rob Campbell, who is sorely missed. The Fremantle Society has contributed to a plaque in his honour and the Fremantle History Society have organised for the exhibition on Rob’s work curated by Dr van Bremen to be shown. 5pm for 5.30.

Please turn up and support this important event.

Coles Woolstore Aftermath

The battle over the Coles Woolstore development was exhausting and depressing – depressing that so much time and money was wasted by council promoting large boxes as the solution to Fremantle’s woes.

When the Herald reported on the outcome, they hadn’t attended the meeting and hadn’t balanced their story with commentary from both sides, so the Fremantle Society asked the Herald to balance their story, which they did by printing our letter on the front page. This led to accusations from serial Society slagger Roel Loopers that the Fremantle Society was ‘gloating’, when in fact we were just exhausted.

But we do wish to thank again those whose expertise was so willingly provided: Malcolm Mackay, Sasha Ivanovich, Ken Adam, and Ian Molyneux.

Distressing News

The removal of so many important trees from King’s Square under the guise of ‘safety concerns’ is a tragedy.

The Fremantle Herald reported last week that one significant Moreton Bay fig tree would go, when in fact the number slated for removal is 4 (four). Additionally, four perfectly healthy Rottnest Island Pines have already been axed near the entrance to the Town Hall.

This carnage is unprecedented and is a seriously ominous omen for the whole King’s Square project, a project described by former Premier Carmen Lawrence as one that will ‘blight Fremantle for the next 100 years.’

Anyone remotely fond of Fremantle will feel distressed at this removal of most of the great trees in King’s Square.

Where is the outrage from the rabid protestors of Roe 8 and the councillors who got themselves arrested over trees being lost there?

Philip Cranworth Webster, the ‘phantom planter’, had wandered Fremantle in the 1880s planting Moreton Bay fig trees, benefitting us all for over 100 years. The Moreton Bay he planted at the front of his High Street home near King’s Square still stands, but one wonders whether other great figs like the one at the Marmion Memorial, or the one opposite the Esplanade Hotel, are being carefully monitored.

Some years ago a pedestrian was killed crossing Marine Terrace under the magnificent Moreton Bay fig there which stretches out over the street towards the Esplanade Hotel. The reaction of council officers was that somehow the tree was to blame and its magnificent branches were slated for removal.

As a councillor back then I asked to see the documentation from the officers justifying such removal and after several weeks they admitted there was no justification, and those awesome branches exist today.

These great trees can live to 180, and the question must be, how were the ones in King’s Square so badly looked after that they have been axed after just over 100 years?

The role of the Anglican Church, who own the land the trees sit on, must also be scrutinised. When the Fremantle Society asked questions of the Anglican Church about their silence over the destruction of Kings square as an open civic square, the letters were ignored. At the other end of town, the Catholic Church have moved in and sequestered 48 West End properties and built themselves a successful money making empire. The Anglican Church meanwhile, who used to own all of King’s Square in the heart of Fremantle, has been silent and useless in protecting and enhancing the future of the square.

Buckminster Fuller wrote: ‘To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.’ But, the Moreton Bay figs would never be obsolete if properly looked after.

Finally – JDAP Does its Job

Today JDAP (the government Joint Development Assessment Panel) did its job and took the expert advice of the DAC (Design Advisory Committee) and that offered by the Fremantle Society to unanimously refuse the Gerard O’Brien 38.9 metre high proposal for the Coles Woolstore site.

The $80 million development had gone through council’s planning committee with a recommendation from DAC and officers of a refusal, and the mayor and councillors wrung their hands in frustration at not being able to pass the plans, as the extra height offered for this site in the scheme was only available for a building that met the criteria of ‘exceptional’ design, and councillors were not qualified to make that judgement.

The Fremantle Society has increasingly sought to commission experts to back our case in various developments, and today at JDAP we were represented by architects Ken Adam, Sasha Ivanovich, Ian Molyneux, and President John Dowson putting the Fremantle Society position and putting forward Malcom Mackay’s report, as he was unable to be there.

The experts commissioned were not directed by the Fremantle Society in any way and their conclusions were their own. In each case they concluded that the quality of the proposal was not ‘exceptional’ and should not be passed.

JDAP is normally very pro development and has angered many communities (and has passed some poor quality and damaging developments before in Fremantle). However, today they were cleverly led by the nose by the two councillors on JDAP Jon Strachan and Rachel Pemberton. Rachel Pemberton knew that JDAP had to make their decision based on expert advice and they had it from the DAC. She did contact various architects whose advice was scathing and backed up the DAC decision. She quoted architects who said ‘the plans were quite unremarkable and the hotel was out of proportion’, ‘the architectural statements on the corners are weak… the monomorphic facades suggest one use rather than the diversity they contain’ and ‘the design is a cacophony – designed by a committee and out of scale.’

We have already provided to members the three reports written for us by Malcolm Mackay and comments from Ken Adam.

Jon Strachan cleverly threw a little hand grenade by announcing that council had legal advice the JDAP may wish to see. The room was cleared and the advice given. It was obvious that the advice was – that in the absence of expert advice supporting the proposal it would be ultra vires for JDAP to approve the plans. The developer Gerard O’Brien, besides gnashing his teeth, fuming at the Fremantle Society before the meeting, and making up stories – ‘Alcoa left Fremantle because council wouldn’t support their plans on the Gas and Coke car park site’ (truth is they got their approval and then disappeared to Melville), hadn’t bothered to provide expert opinion to back up his claim that his proposal was ‘exceptional.’ His architect did quote comments from a Craig Smith, who interestingly didn’t seem to conclude that the design was ‘exceptional.’

JDAP voted 5-0 to refuse the application which would have been the tallest ever building in the town of Fremantle.

The Fremantle Society encourages developments of run down sites like Coles Woolstores (dismal after just 30 years), but wants to see good quality architecture.