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

Guildford Listing Proves Fremantle Society Correct

“The pretty and large village of Guildford” – Lady Broome 1883

Great news has been announced that Guildford Historic Town has been listed in its entirety by the Heritage Council.

The listing of the whole historic town, an area seven times larger than the listed West End of Fremantle, proves that the Fremantle Society was correct all along when insisting that the historic town of Fremantle should be listed, and not just half of the original designated West End area.

Ridiculed by Fremantle Council, and defamed by the Fremantle Herald, the Fremantle Society was told it was not possible to list what the experts and the Fremantle Society had worked for.

The Fremantle Society were pleased to work with the Guildford Society to make sure the Guildford listing was not slashed, like the Fremantle one. The President and committee members travelled to Guildford and made a submission in support of the listing of the entire Guildford Historic Town.

It does not appear at this stage however, that protections sought for the low scale environment of the Guildford Historic Town, are adequately protected. Also, the Guildford listing, along with the Fremantle one, has not resulted in a single dollar of extra money being made available to do the research and conservation plans necessary, let alone encourage maintenance and restoration.

The Fremantle Society submission:

Guildford Historic Town

The Fremantle Society supports the Heritage Council listing of the Guildford Historic Town, and has worked with the Guildford Society to understand their concerns and priorities, as well as making our own site visit.

The Guildford Historic Town is bordered by the Swan River to the north and west, the Helena River to the south and southeast. It retains the essential elements of a nineteenth century Australian country town, yet is a suburb of the City of Perth.

The Fremantle Society has over 40 years’ experience in heritage and heritage listing matters, and well remembers the process of the recent heritage listing of the ‘West End’ of Fremantle, where the Heritage Council omitted half of the area of the original West End area, ignored our detailed and repeated submissions, and provided no additional funding to go with the listing, to document the area or to encourage restoration or maintenance.

We hope that the process for Guildford is more sympathetic to heritage, more sensitive to local expert opinion, and more forthcoming with the necessary funding to progress the listing and the protection of the precinct.

We are also concerned that developer interests seem to have far too much influence over the Heritage Council inside and out, and recent damaging approvals in the listed ‘West End’ of Fremantle and the historic town of Guildford demonstrate that.

A precinct listing of a unique and significant heritage area like Guildford Historic Town is important, and a great step forward. It will help showcase Guildford and give great satisfaction to residents and visitors alike. If well protected it will become an increasingly rare example of a modest but beautiful settlement of human scale close to a major city. That rarity is already evident, and must not be underestimated as a value of exceptional significance.

The listing should:

a) Have a clear and tight Statement of Significance which protects the colonial scale, height and design of Guildford, and

b) Come with an allocation of serious funding to list in detail the properties inside the precinct and to encourage restoration and maintenance.

Statement of Significance: In the Heritage Council Statement of Significance there needs to be a much clearer description of the modest scale of the town throughout its five key periods, a scale that historically has not exceeded two storeys, and as such differs from the other early settlements Perth and Fremantle.

Two storey premises were generally limited to hotels predominantly in corner or landmark locations and significant civil buildings such as the Post Office  and St Matthews Church.

It would appear to the Fremantle Society that the Guildford Historic Town has Exceptional Significance as a high quality survivor of so many periods of change, with such integrity, history, and heritage value, while the other two towns also set up in 1829 (Fremantle and Perth) have undergone radical change and, in areas, over densification.

Guildford is not just a survivor. It has many significant surviving natural elements of importance relating to the river, parks, gardens, and streetscapes. It has magnificent deliberate tree plantings. Its residential and commercial buildings are homogenous with one and two storeys. Its 1880s side streets have modest and attractive traditional residential housing.

Its historical importance is well detailed, with some omissions. The Local Volunteer Fire Brigade for example, operating out of the convict built Commissariat Store, was Australia’s Champion Brigade. The annual Royal Show now in Claremont had its origins in Guildford where the first agricultural show was held.

In many ways Guildford still has the elements described by Lady Broome in 1883 when she described it as “the pretty and large village of Guildford, nestled amongst its fields and vineyards.”

Thanks to the surrounding Swan and Helena rivers, Guildford is beautifully framed and its landscape elements are exceptional and form a highly significant part of its value. The arrival of the railways fractured the town in some ways but are a valuable part of its current amenity. The decision not to build the Midland Railway terminus in Guildford saved Guildford from over industrialisation just as the decision not to build the western terminus of the trans continental railway in Fremantle saved Fremantle from a similar fate.

In overall terms, it has national significance, as Professor Gordon Stephenson stated when he wrote: “In a planning context, Guildford as a whole should be regarded as one of the most important towns of first settlement in Australia.”

In the Heritage Council documentation section 12 Degree of Significance the Fremantle Society seeks additional strengthening of the various clauses there to reflect what appears to us as Exceptional Significance. We do not believe that the HC Zones of Significance Map P2915-A as it is will protect the historic town from inappropriate development and ask that it be strengthened to reflect the Exceptional Significance of the town as a whole.

It is essential that it be clear to developers and those entrusted with decision making – through well worded regulations – that new development must not overwhelm the existing low scale of the town.

Local Features: Certain local features are significant to the character of Guildford and should be emphasised – such as the use of local materials – clay for bricks, local shell deposits for lime, and river sand for mortar.

Intrusive Developments: Intrusive developments such as 110 Terrace Road and the new St Vincent’s Hospital should be listed and detailed as intrusive to prevent such errors in the future.

Views: Finally, views from the rivers should be seen as equally important as views from roads .

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society
19 October, 2018

photo courtesy the Heritage Council website