High Rise Not Needed – Herald • Letters 17 September 2016

HISTORY will show that mayor Pettitt and councillors Hume, Nabor, McDonald, Waltham, and Jones are happy to see new developments in the heart of Fremantle as high as the detested 1970 Johnston Court block of flats.

38letters-1They are the ones who voted to allow an eight-storey, plus basement, plus rooftop clutter, development to go through council’s planning committee to the development assessment panel, despite a legal opinion by council’s own lawyers that council could not approve the eighth storey.
The mayor and councillors danced around the legal advice and decided to let the DAP decide. On this former Spotlight site (originally Coles) adjacent to Westgate Mall, 72 residences, 7 commercial tenancies and 97 cars will somehow be jammed into the 1390sqm site.

38letters-2

On this block bounded by Adelaide, Queen and Cantonment streets, on 15 December 1965, Charles Court opened council’s Westgate “Super Centre”, a transit orientated development with Bairds, Coles, and Walsh’s as key tenants. It was promoted as the ‘shopping mecca of the western and southern suburbs.’ It wasn’t long before Myer came to town and wanted something bigger and so within seven years the centre of gravity shifted to King’s Square and Westgate Mall went into decline with Myer (which opened 1 August 1972) and the adjacent Queensgate (1987) becoming the latest salvation of retail in Fremantle.
The photograph showing all the paving leading into Westgate Mall was taken in 1968 from council’s Point Street car park (the first split level car park in WA)  soon after Westgate Mall opened. In the background stands the handsome Johnston Church, weeks before it was demolished to make way for the Johnston Court flats seen in the second (1971) photograph, which also shows the new Crane House at the rear.
Soon after Johnston Court was built in 1970, the mayor and some councillors were aghast at its negative impact, and promised that something like it would never be built again. But here we are 46 years later and neither the mayor nor any councillor blinked when the developer for 52 Adelaide Street argued that Johnston Court was ‘adjacent’ and could be ‘built up to.’ Once 52 Adelaide Street goes through the DAP next Monday (9.30am in Fremantle Council Chamber) the rest of the area could well be blighted with such heights.

The mayor said that nothing ‘but a bomb’ could improve the Westgate Mall area, hardly a considered planning argument for that small part of Fremantle which sits between the important heritage areas of King’s Square and Princess May Park. It may be run down and lacking investment but at  least it has a human scale that suits Fremantle.
The solution for Fremantle’s regeneration is not high rise nor super high density housing creating the slums of the future.
Rather, we need the high quality new buidings we were promised by this council, and some ‘bomb proof’ sensitivity to whatever site the mayor and councillors next lay their eyes on.
John Dowson
President
The Fremantle Society

 

Development at Any Cost?

 

 The Fremantle Society want King’s Square area redeveloped but not at any cost.

REMINDER: IMPORTANT PUBLIC MEETING

Wednesday 20 April, 2016 at 7pm.

Notre Dame Uni cnr Croke and Cliff Street

 ‘$220 million’ King’s Square Business Plan

FREMANTLE COUNCIL REFUSE TO DISCLOSE KEY INFORMATION RELATED TO KING’S SQUARE RE-DEVELOPMENT PLAN

The plan, the largest in the City’s history and already delayed by several years, is due to be extended despite key financial questions from City ratepayers remaining unanswered. 

 Fremantle City Council are withholding financial information which may reveal that the major city centre re-development will result in close to a $50,000,000 erosion of Fremantle’s ratepayers asset base, rather than the gain claimed by Council. Fremantle ratepayers believe they have a right to know how their Council is spending their funds.

The city’s former Mayor, Peter Tagliafferi, has likened council’s actions to a    ‘…return of WA Inc’. He has described the project as “Crazy”, and “a disaster waiting to happen”.

The Fremantle Society (FS), in collaboration with the Fremantle Inner City Residents’ Association (FICRA) and Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association (FRRA), are holding a public meeting on Wednesday 20 April at Notre Dame University in Fremantle. At that meeting, presentations including information from a professional review by a licensed valuer of key assumptions, commissioned by the FS, will reveal the King’s Square Business Plan (a joint project by the City and developers Sirona), is not financially viable.

As part of the plan, the City’s Councillors have voted to sell property to co-developers Sirona at well below market prices, which will result in a financial burden that can only be recovered by large rate increases. The council have refused to hand over their financial assessment after many requests and the Fremantle Society and FRRA and FICRA are seeking an investigation into the financial assumptions of the plan.

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THE BIG SHIFT

Colin Nichol speculates on future council finances.

FREMANTLE mayor Brad Pettitt may have unknowingly hinted at the tip of an iceberg when he recently commented in his blog and elsewhere, on “cost shifting from state to local government”, in reference to the burden of paying for, in the words of local government minister Tony Simpson, “the implementation of the changes necessary for the new local governments to start operating from 1 July next year”.

Will it stop there? That “trickle down effect” theory might not only refer to the somewhat hypothetical downward redistribution of wealth, but also the redistribution of responsibility from one level of government to the next. Over years, federal government has devolved costs to state and they, to local governments. The controversy over health care funding being pushed back to the states is the latest. With the prospect of the temptation of larger and consequently wealthier councils, that famous Paul Keating quote seems apropos: ” Never get between a premier and a bucket of money”. So, which aspects of current state government obligations might be transferred? The areas that first come to mind is those around social services, welfare and housing, while some health responsibilities might be passed down. The only way to know will be after the event, unless the government could be pressured into clarifying this option created within the new council reconfiguration legislation.

When asked, local government Minister Tony Simpson responded to this proposition predictably, by saying the focus was on “strengthening local governments and there was no plan to change the allocation of services”. Neither a clear “yes” nor “no”; a new plan remains an option. On similar lines, with credit ratings in the news, the minister has stated there are “no plans or timeframe” to implement such a scheme for those future more significantly financial councils, as has previously occurred in some cases in the country. More to think about as local government marches toward that fateful midyear 2015.

Whitewash at the U.S. Laundry

While one would not think it today, American forces had a large presence in Fremantle during the Second World War.  One of the final vestiges of that era is threatened with demolition if Fremantle Council’s Planning Services Committee (PSC) gets its way.  The building in question is the former USA Laundry building located at the Fremantle Arts Centre.  A modest building with a modest use but none the less an important part of Fremantle’s social history.  The place was built by the Americans from Oregon that they brought from America, so it represents a rare remaining example of the cultural heritage of that period and is unique in its construction.  Issues recognised by the Council’s Heritage Planner whose report recommended refusal of application for demolition from Western Australian Museums (WAM). WAM used the building as Restoration Laboratories for 35 years (1970-2005) they decided it was unfit for their workplace use 2005.  At PSC on 12th January a representative from WAM spoke enthusiastically on the need for demolition due to its derelict nature, as a result of WAM neglect & a sad indicator of their stewardship.  Apparently, If WAM application for demolition is approved the Council gets the vacant site for use by FAC.

Previous Council debate on this application centred on the cost of renovation and possible use for the building rather than the crucial aspect of what Heritage values the building has.  This is a most unfortunate example of double standards, Council is (suitably) unforgiving when refusing the Dept of Housing & Works requests for demolition of Hilton homes based on buildings poor state of repair, posing an asbestos risk and not being appropriate for their use; yet Councillors are using the same arguments for an application relating to a building on the FAC site.

The role of Councillors is to provide leadership, not to management; ratepayers pay senior managers large amounts of money to do that.  If the Council truly believe demolishing buildings of significant cultural and built Heritage values shows leadership, then the Fremantle Society has its work cut out in 2011.

Please get in touch on 0417 901 809 or president@fremantlesociety.org.au if you have any personal interest in, or stories of, the site or the WW2 US Navy era in general.