24 Hours to Get a Quality Cultural Centre

Tomorrow night, Wednesday 29 January, Fremantle Council will discuss the 828 sq m Tavern proposed for the new $45 million Administration Building in King’s Square. Last week, only two councillors voted against it: Cr Lang, Greens member for City ward, who faces reelection next year, and Cr Thompson.

As the Fremantle Society detailed last week, the deal is a shocking and inappropriate one.

The new administration building was touted as a “Cultural Centre”, and that is what we should get.

The community, yet again not consulted, is disengaged and unhappy, but unlikely to storm the barricades. It would be helpful if members turned up tomorrow night at the North Fremantle Community Centre at 6pm to voice their views, or at least write to councillors today. Councillor emails end in @fremantle.wa.gov.au and begin with the councillors first name and initial eg geoffg (Geoff Graham), jennifera (Jenny Archibald), hannahf (Hannah Fitzhardinge, sug (Su Groome), frankm (Frank Mofflin), Samw (Sam Wainwright), Brynj (Bryn Jones), adinl (Adin Lang),  andrews (Andrew Sullivan) and marijav (Marija Vujcic).

The Fremantle Society has been told that even the Church of England, who own half of King’s Square including a church 20 metres from the proposed tavern, have not been informed.

Below is what will be sent to all councillors (it might help you pose some questions to all of them at members@fremantle.wa.gov.au though individual emails are better):

Tavern Lease for new Administration Building

Please consider that ratepayers are paying $45 million for a new administration building they did not ask for, especially as it is destroying the only town square in Western Australia. It is opposed by two former Premiers, former Fremantle MP Troy, the Fremantle Society, and all urban design experts asked.

The new administration building was promised to be a civic building and a “Cultural Centre.”

Please therefore make sure we get a high quality “Cultural Centre” where a top class library with plenty of books (and not a preponderance of computers and coffee machines), sits alongside a revamped Local History Library. Fremantle’s Local History Library used to be the best in the State until council sacked half its full time staff and decided not to have a stand alone facility. The staff should be reinstated and the Local History Library should be a stand alone unit as before.

A “Cultural Centre” also needs area for exhibitions such as art displays (why is the council’s multi million dollar collection invisible?), meeting rooms, and information areas like a Tourist Information Centre.

A large tavern as proposed, which, even if it was run by a good operator, is a very bad idea for a civic building, especially if there is a long rent free period and a long 10 plus 10 year lease. Unsightly access for services, unloading kegs, storage of empty kegs and oil drums, grease traps, and bin areas alone will turn prime real estate into an ugly interface.

In Melbourne for the tennis, I stayed at a famous hotel because it looked attractive from the outside. However, the operators have given over most of the entrance area to a large tavern, which is so noisy and invasive, it ruined the whole purpose of going there to stay. A civic building is not the right place for a tavern. Fremantle is now under siege from endless new alcohol venues and that monoculture should not be supported by council, especially as many people do not drink alcohol, and want a civic experience in their new building that speaks of dignity, calm, culture, and peace.

There is no need to have everything finished and installed in a new civic building, just because there is a mayoral election next year. If 130 operators turned this idea down, there are very good reasons.

Besides not discussing this with the community, your council has not even discussed this with the Church of England, who own half of King’s Square, and are not happy to hear of a tavern 20 metres from their church.

Finally, can you please indicate why the Expression of Interest for this Tavern is not being readvertised when the extraordinary incentives being offered such as $500,000 fit out paid for by ratepayers and free rent for 3 years, were not offered to all those who initially saw the EOI?

Please vote for a Cultural Centre and not a Tavern.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society

King’s Park Under Threat

The Fremantle Society is not just a supporter of Fremantle’s heritage and environment, but we work with other groups sharing common interests, and there is no more important place perhaps than the magnificent King’s Park overlooking Perth.

Begun almost 150 years ago by Surveyor-General Malcom Fraser when he set aside 432 acres in 1872 and 1873, it is now under serious threat from government ministers keen to show they think they know what is good for tourism. If someone showed up with a pot of money, they would support disfiguring ideas like a cable car running from Elizabeth Quay up the escarpment of Mt Eliza, and then through the park on giant steel towers tramping through the bush.

It is important that the community express their views and AT THE RIGHT TIME.

The right time is now to complete the survey mentioned in the news article above.

It would seem that one of the key values of the park – its place as a serious area for commemoration and reflection of past wars, with the war memorial and treed avenues with plaques, is being tested.

And, King’s park is a natural park, not a theme park, and hopefully that value will be protected from insensitive money making ideas.

Please go to: www.bgpa.wa.gov.au by the end of the month.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society

Carmen Lawrence: “That is going to be a blight on the City of Fremantle for the next 100 years”

Garry Gillard – Great Fremantle Stuff

The Fremantle Society, and many others, are indebted to Garry Gillard for the amazing work he has done single-handedly constructing a Fremantle version of Wikipedia.

Garry has posted a plethora of interesting pages about Fremantle people, places, buildings, and events over recent years.

The most important is the recent posting of the complete speech former Premier Carmen Lawrence made several years ago to the Fremantle History Society about doing density differently. It was entitled “Is Increasing Density a threat to Fremantle’s heritage?

This important speech was made in 2016 at the Fremantle History Society’s Fremantle Studies Day. The speech was an important rejoinder to the damaging and undemocratic high rise path being pursued by Fremantle Council in developing the town.

The speech was so important it should have been released immediately to the media. Instead, the Fremantle History Society, who holds the copyright, disgracefully kept the speech hidden. The speech might have made a difference, and helped save KIng’s Square, something the Fremantle Society tried hard to do. The Fremantle History Society is not into advocacy, which is a great pity, but this speech by a former Premier backs up the concerns expressed by another former Premier, Colin Barnett.

The Fremantle Society asked the Fremantle History Society if we can reproduce the speech, but they have not responded.

Garry Gillard has gone ahead and posted the whole speech. It is available on his Fremantle Stuff site. A few extracts:

In struggles to preserve our heritage in the face of these economic goals, those goals may take precedence over what is really precious to us. So in a funny kind of way the metric of money because it is tangible and palpable – overwhelms the things that we cannot value so readily. Decisions about what matters and whether and how to protect heritage are often made without reference to the views of the public at large. It is only when people object that we find out what they care about. Those judgments are often made by experts and specialists and when they do ask people what they want it is often as not to ignore it once they have found out.

People know what Fremantle is about. It might consist of certain building materials, familiar here, colours, typical arrangements of scale and architectural form, building lot sizes, roof lines, the scale of public and semi-public spaces. I am sure we could all draw a picture of Fremantle that incorporated all of those elements and there would be a great deal of agreement between us about the nature, if you like the DNA, of Fremantle. The important thing here is that when you are thinking about increasing density, or building new civic buildings, or increasing the number of opportunities for people to have recreation on the waterfront, this DNA has to be respected. In my view. New buildings have to respect this genetic code, reflecting at least some of the existing patterns when they are being interpreted in contemporary form. There has to be a conversation; there has to be a relationship.

There is another one that you would be aware of in the old Spotlight site. I do not think that has come to anything yet, but the proposals being suggested are very like, as I understand it, the scale of old Johnston Court, which is one of those buildings that sticks out like a sore thumb. Similarly adding an extra storey here and there, out of sync with the streetscape, out of sync with the texture of the environment, is likely to have very significant effects as well.

I have on my thumb drive here an image of what is proposed for St John’s Square, which many of you will be familiar with. I find it hard to imagine that anybody could have looked at that place and said that that building, or those buildings, were the solution to the problem that we have there. Apart from anything else having a whole lot of office space is not likely to bring life to the city; you actually need people who live there and a big triangular building with all these grey facades plonked in middle of a square, out of sync with the town hall and the church is giving up what could be a wonderful opportunity. That is going to be a blight on the City of Fremantle in my view for the next 100 years and I think that is a tragedy.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society


photo courtesy The Guardian

Disfigurement of a World Famous Town

Who Cares?

When the large deck appeared on the Elder Building above (now MSC) it stuck out like a sore thumb, and was so damaging to the heritage roofscapes of the listed West End, that it was assumed to be just a serious error that would be soon rectified and removed.

But no, months later it is still there. By day it disfigures one of the most important buildings in Fremantle, and diminishes the landmark quality of its cupola on the corner of Phillimore and Cliff Streets. By night, as seen above, it resembles a flying saucer landing in the West End.

The Fremantle Society has been shocked to learn that the deck with its louvred canopy roof was deemed by Fremantle Council officers to be ‘not unduly obtrusive’ and that the Heritage Council, which Mayor Pettitt sits on, raised no objections.

There are now endless examples of damage to heritage buildings  in Fremantle like this, and there do not appear to be any rules any longer. The rule book has been thrown out.

This disgraceful situation will be a focus of the Fremantle Society as it tries to make heritage once again a subject of importance to Fremantle Council. Since Fremantle Society committee member Agnieshka Kiera left council as heritage architect, there has been no strong advocate for heritage on council.

With 2020 vision, we will work to bring back the scrapped heritage committee, the scrapped heritage grants fund, the scrapped 1.25% of rates to heritage projects, the scrapped annual heritage awards, and the scrapped annual local history awards.

President’s Report

The Fremantle Society has serious concerns about the future of Arthur Head and devoted much of its AGM last week to the subject. Despite the photo below it has not quite yet collapsed.

President’s Report 10 Dec 2019 AGM Kidogo by John Dowson


2019 has seen a united committee, with Secretary Chris Williams, a lawyer in High Street, Treasurer Adele Carles, the former MP for Fremantle who is invaluable with her background, Jack Turnbull, not officially on the committee but who helps with the finances, Mike Finn, a businessman in Market Street with the famous Kakulas shops, Robert Bodkin, another businessman, at Bodkin’s Bootery in High Street, Peter Scott, who is also precinct convenor for Arts Precinct, Ian Molyneux , the inaugural chairman of the Heritage Council, but who has been very ill this year, and Agnieshka Kiera, who, as Fremantle Council’s heritage architect for 25 years, was and is a superb advocate for heritage – though unfortunately now relocating to Sydney. Jeremy Bean was elected but withdrew during the year. I thank all these wonderful people for the time and effort they have given to improve Fremantle. As we approach our 50thanniversary in 2022, we need even more helpers!


A chronology for the past year shows:

December 2018: At a meeting with the Fremantle Society, former Premier Colin Barnett tells the Fremantle Society: “If I was still Premier, I would put Fremantle Council into administration.” The Fremantle Society is not alone in its concerns about the local council.

Royal George Hotel and George Street Precinct: The Fremantle Society worked closely with the pro-heritage East Fremantle council to ensure sensitive development of the Royal George Hotel and the reinstatement of the missing George Street Heritage Precinct.

Felice Varini Yellow Lines Fiasco: Ratepayers have had to foot the bill for over $200,000 worth of repairs to buildings in High Street because Fremantle Council left the paint on the buildings. The Fremantle Society lobbied for better outcomes for the repaired buildings.

January 2019:   Campaign to save King’s Square. Despite the backing of experts and two former Premiers, the Fremantle Society was unable  to convince council to save $45 million and keep King’s Square as the only true town square in Western Australia.

February 2019:  The sale of the Spicer Site in Henderson Street by Sirona is investigated and it is discovered Sirona made $1 million profit from onselling this ratepayer asset.

Rubbish Fraud:  Fremantle Society drew attention to the 2% rates levy for an extra rubbish bin, when many people will not get the bin, much waste is going to landfill, and the 2% rate increase means that that amount is paid every single year, instead of as a once off.

May 2019:   Aboriginal Centre: The Fremantle Society continued to lobby for the maintenance of Arthur Head, and wrote to the mayor and councillors concerning the wasteful $50,000 being spent on a report about a $50 million Aboriginal centre at Arthur Head they will never get funding for, and didn’t receive a single reply.

June 2019:  The Fremantle Society campaigned on the issue of the alleged mistreatment of stallholders at the Fremantle Markets, the missing millions of $$ that should be going to ratepayers, and the lack of restoration of the Markets. Council dismissed all concerns.

July 2019:   The Fremantle Society worked with the Guildford Society who helped achieve the heritage listing for the whole of Guildford, vindicating the Fremantle Society position that more of Fremantle’s historic town should have been heritage listed.

Fishing Boat Harbour:   The Fremantle Society attended a workshop on a proposal to develop the boat lifters’ site, which months later has morphed into a high rise apartment proposal.

September 2019:   The Fremantle Society campaigned against the development by Yolk Property, who bought the Josephson Street ratepayer asset car park for $1.15m against a valuation of $1.42 and are given permission to build an apartment block on the corner of Josephson and High Street 5.4 m higher than the allowable maximum height.

October 2019:  President John Dowson ran for City Ward in the local elections and narrowly missed out beating the Green’s incumbent Rachel Pemberton. Top election issues included the state of council finances, poor quality development, failure to curb anti-social behaviour, parking woes, and the proposed sale of the Leisure Centre Car park. Following the election the council implemented John Dowson’s idea for two hour free parking.

Former president Ralph Hoare wrote, in agreement with Fremantle Society concerns about the nearby town centre now, that this has been: “A very clear but sad period of development that in ten years has destroyed the essence of Fremantle that was renowned for its clear expression of its heritage past; and now this has now been tipped upside down under the current Mayor’s reign.”

November 2019:   Arthur Head is in such a poor state due to council’s neglect and damage that they have asked the Fremantle Society for help in raising the millions of $$ needed. The Fremantle Society put forward the outline for a positive vision, but weeks later we have heard nothing and have not been provided with the documents we were promised.

More Submissions: Another made on the latest bizarre iteration of Cole’s Woolstores .

Fremantle Society Submission on Woolstores Based on Wide Ranging Discussions

Fremantle Society Submission on Woolstores Shopping Centre and Car Park Proposal, 28 Cantonment Street Fremantle DAP003/19, December 5, 2019.

Introduction: The Fremantle Society is keen to see new developments in Fremantle which add to the quality of the town and fit in. Unfortunately, the majority of recent development proposals have been insensitive and of low quality.

The site in question is a highly significant one opposite the well restored single storeyed railway station, and enroute along Queen Street to the newly developed King’s Triangle area.

The site was, until inexplicable council permission to demolish it was granted in the 1980s, the site of the biggest and best woolstore in Fremantle. That history, the size of the site, and the surrounding context, should inform the thinking for a replacement building.

Site Context: The site is a large one in a key central area and needs a coordinated development plan, particularly along Queen Street, where the alignment of the road needs to be addressed as part of any development for this site.

Assessment of Proposal:

1. Comprehensive Proposal Needed: A comprehensive redevelopment of the Woolstores Centre site would be extremely welcome as an important contribution to the future of Fremantle. However this is not a comprehensive development, but an ad hoc, piecemeal and speculative one with far too little detail, especially as it is not known if and when a future police building will be funded within Fremantle.

2. Design:The proposal is a bold effort to provide a variegated solution to a very large site, using an accordion like metal faced upper section for the hotel development, while providing a standard glass and brick box like solution for the housing of the police headquarters at the other end of the site.

Boldness alone is not a measure of success, and the effect of the accordion like upper section is more shocking than satisfying, alien to anything else in the historic town of Fremantle, even the adjacent four-storey bank building built by the same developer, where former planning minister Alannah MacTiernan quipped at the opening: “When is the scaffolding coming down?” The serious failure of the proposed design was well described by architect Carl Payne in a recent letter to the editor in the Fremantle Herald.

3. Height, Bulk and Scale: The most important benchmark for the height, scale and massing of the development is set by the adjoining Goldsborough Mort Woolstores building and, to a lesser extent, the newer building at the SE corner of Cantonment and Queen Streets, and that level should best be maintained consistently over the whole site. No protrusions above this level, other than minor necessary protrusions, should be accepted. Architect Ken Adam has made this point very strongly to the Fremantle Society in his analysis. It is accepted that the 21m height limit approximates this level.

4. Queen Street Shops: A key issue that needs resolution is the six shops on Queen Street that are part of this site. As urban planner Malcolm Mackay stated in a commentary commissioned by the Fremantle Society: The retention of the existing shops to Queen Street is unfortunate as the north-western corner of the site is a prominent corner that is clearly visible to people arriving in Fremantle at the railway station; also, the corner would have offered an excellent opportunity to establish a strong and welcoming architectural feature.

Given that the developer owns most of those shops, and that council has the power of compulsory acquisition, the remaining shop should be acquired, and the six existing shops demolished to allow a better design outcome for the hotel development and the realignment of Queen Street.

5. Car Bays:The proposal submitted is seriously deficient in car bays, and the Fremantle Society believes that the anti-car agenda pursued by the council since 2010 needs reviewing, and the development of this site demands adequate parking for supermarket, office, hotel, and the special needs of the police.

6. Interior Quality:The quality of the interior fit out for residents who regularly shop at Coles and others using this prominent site needs to be higher than previous developments by this developer.

7. Percent for Art: While the percent for art scheme initiated for council for major new projects was a good idea in theory, it has been a catastrophic failure, in general littering Fremantle with substandard art work.

Given the fact that the previous woolstore on the site is partially interpreted by interior original wooden beams, and a historic machinery remnant outside on the northern side of Coles, which should be kept and retained in any future development, the Fremantle Society suggests that the percent for art money be used for further historic interpretation of this important site, which could be internal in public spaces or outside. That opportunity for example was missed when the “Manning’s Folly” site was redeveloped as the Quest Apartment Hotel, without any successful attempt to interpret the highly significant history of that site internally or externally.

8. Design Detail: There is not enough detail of materiality or quality of finish and that should be provided before any approval is given. The lack of effort by the developer is exemplified in the statement that the height of the Coles supermarket ceiling will be ’55 metres’.

9. Design Relevance:The use of bricks as shown is appropriate and supported, but the shopfronts appear incongruous for Fremantle and more suitable to a car show room in Victoria Park, while the materials and design above the shopfronts and the corner treatment for the Coles entrance appear featuristic.

Conclusion: The Fremantle Society supports good development and wants to see developers spend money improving the town. But the Fremantle Society is shocked at this latest iteration for the site. The design has been shown to various architects and to members of the community, who overall are scathing, describing it as ‘dismal’ and inappropriate for Fremantle.

There is no urgency for this proposal to be passed, and the Fremantle Society asks that this design be rejected.