East Fremantle’s Council Chamber was packed to capacity at Tuesday’s Full Council meeting, which I attended for the Fremantle Society. The Royal George Hotel is clearly close to the hearts of East Fremantle folk and two hours passed as the community aired their thoughts to Council on the proposal for short-term accommodation and restaurant.
Thirteen people registered to speak with 10 against the proposal. Their main objections were loss of community space particularly for artists, and lack of developer intentions to meet parking shortfall of over 40 bays. There was frustration at losing the Royal George as a Council held community asset to a private development proposal. Cr Martin likened it to two lovers, both parties telling each other what wonderful things they could achieve together, but ending in divorce. In this case at the court of the SAT. The proposed developer, his architect and one community person spoke in support.
Andrew Smith, who aired his views in thinking allowed in two editions of his newspaper, the Fremantle Herald, urged Council to refuse the application and formally ask the National Trust(NTWA) to please explain several issues, including a very pointed, why they went back on their partnership agreement with East Fremantle Council.
Mayor Ferris allowed members of the gallery to ask questions of the developer and his architect, thus people not registered had a say and those who had spoken strengthened their case.
At 9:30pm Council returned to the chamber to make their decision. The Officer’s recommendation was for Conditional Approval with Council choosing between 1 of 3 options. Whilst there were 20+ conditions they differed only in dealing with parking issues. Cr de Jong moved Conditions B requiring ‘submission of amended plans incorporating sufficient on-site car parking…’ Cr Collinson led the charge for outright Refusal. 40 minutes later the motion Passed 5 to 3. The application will now go back to SAT for further Mediation. If the parties cannot agree it is destined for a full sitting of SAT for Determination.
The Fremantle Society called the Royal George home in 2009/10 partnering with the NTWA in seeking Federal grant funding for restoration work retaining the community use component, which unfortunately was unsuccessful. It is saddening to see what started out a decade ago with such promise coming to this.
Councillors speaking for and against the motion were of like mind on the issue, with the mover of the motion stating the ‘National trust has been disgraceful‘ on this issue. There was Councillor consensus at their disappointment and frustration at being obliged to decide this controversial item on Planning grounds.
The clock cannot be turned back, but mediation between East Fremantle Council and the NTWA is required, not on planning issues but on ownership and the future of the Royal George. One thing is for sure, it’s not the end of this issue, with many in the community prepared to fight for The People’s Royal George Hotel.