Twin Towers of Good Governance -Transparency and Accountability

(the photo at the top is from the Warders Cottages development proposal which goes to JDAP this Friday at 9.30am in the Fremantle Council Chamber – see below)

Fremantle Council issued a press release today headlined “Last Hurrah for Council Chambers.”

The mayor noted that in its 50 years the chamber had seen “memorable moments” like the huge crowd when the Esplanade Skate Park Plaza was voted through, the Kings Square plans and Amendment 49 (to allow developers to have high rise in Fremantle).

Ironically, these examples selected by the mayor were three highly controversial decisions of council – the skate park was contrary to council’s own Masterplan for Esplanade Park, upset locals, and should have been built in the car park and not on the green space of the park. The Kings Square Business Plan, like the controversial Markets Lease the mayor supported when he was a councillor, did not go out for public tender,  and there has never been a demand from the community for a new administration building. And, the MAJORITY of the community did NOT support the heights proposed in amendment 49.

The twin towers of good governance – transparency and accountability – have gone down, like the admin building, with the actions of Fremantle Council.

They will not rise again unless the community asks more questions and seeks better quality outcomes.

Warders Cottages

(Councillors meet ahead of their planning meetings and seem to formulate a ‘team’ view then of what outcomes should be for important planning agenda items. They seem to ignore the Fremantle Society view, as being one that is a ‘nuisance’ or ‘irritant’ to them, as though the Fremantle Society view is simply a narrow viewpoint. In formulating views and submissions on this isssue the Fremantle Society has consulted widely and has informed members of key aspects, as it has worked through the issues. We have consulted three staff at the National Trust, several staff at the Heritage Council, a conservation architect, the neighbors to the proposal, a former mayor, a senior retired architect, TV and print journalists, the former Premier of WA, and the Heritage Minister. The community is given very little time to respond to major issues, and to ensure transparency council should give much more notice of key developments).

The Warders Cottages issue is another example of a lack of transparency and accountability. The cottages, of national importance, have been poorly handled from day one, when council voted to support strata titling and privatisation of the cottages, contrary to expert advice and obvious best outcome being ownership remaining with the prison or another body like the National Trust.

At last week’s planning meeting, despite the officers admitting they had never seen the key guiding document for all the cottages – the 2016 Conservation Management Plan, the meeting proceeded, and not one councillor took any notice of the submission of the Fremantle Society. Councillors had no interest in discussing heritage, just how many patrons could fit into the beer garden.

The mayor states in today’s West Australian that tourists will flock to the cottages when the rear gardens have been totally eradicated and the rear aspect of the cottages ruined and obscured by second storey walkways.

It doesnt help that the Heritage Council, the ‘owners’ of the site and the decision makers about it, put a bulldozer through the rear gardens, aware that a proposal was before them for a beer garden.

For over 150 years these inner city cottages had their own inner city sanctum – a private garden, making them rare and highly important. But not one councillor stood up for the gardens. They should be reinstated.

The cottages are magical and have survived in good shape after 167 years. Any development of the site should be highly sensitive in order to keep the authenticity of the cottages and their gardens. THEN tourists will have something to salivate over.

The Fremantle Society and affected neighbours will make submissions on Friday to JDAP. There are six key issues with the current proposal:

a) Failure to address November 2016 Conservation Management Plan: The conservation plan has around 180 clear policies and the properties are sold subject to a Heritage Agreement which binds purchasers to follow the Conservation Plan. Policy 171 for example clearly states that only essential one storey structures can be erected in the historically important rear gardens, but two storeys are proposed.

b) Damage to nationally significant  British military colonial warders usage and garden significance: Based on previous work by the same applicant (Hougoumont Hotel), not enough sensitivity to the enormous heritage of the site will be shown in the works intended. The essence of the Heritage Act, in particular 11(3) states that “A decision making authority shall not take any action that might (whether or not adversely) affect to a significant extent a registered place or a place which is the subject of a Heritage Agreement”, but considerable changes are being sought.

c) Misjudgement of Heritage Council in stating that proposed works are ‘reversible’. The works are clearly designed to be for long term use and are not temporary.

d) Lack of car parking provided: Given that council is rapidly selling off its own car parks there is a need for cash in lieu to be paid if car parking is not to be provided.

e) Failure of Fremantle Council to properly assess proposal: Council’s Design Advisory Committee, which gives adivce on major developments, did not give comment on this proposal. Council’s own staff admitted at the planning meeting they did not know of the existence of a key document: the November 2016 Conservation Management Plan. Councillors did not discuss the heritage of the buildings and the site, but focussed on the size of the beer garden.

f) Adverse effects on residential neighbours of a 475 person capacity beer garden.

The Fremantle Society will request that the application be refused or modified to protect the heritage values of the cottages and their individual gardens.

John Dowson
President
The Fremantle Society
john.dowson@yahoo.com

AGM and Picture Palaces of the Golden West

Legend Vyonne Geneve, founder of the WA Art Deco Society, gave Fremantle Society members a real treat last Thursday night at the AGM with a talk focussing on the inter war history of Fremantle and its various art deco buildings.

A couple of copies of her wonderful book are still available ($60, which includes a free $35 copy of Fighting for Fremantle). Call John Dowson 9335 2113

The AGM showed that the Society is still in a strong financial position, with hundreds of members. President John Dowson outlined some of the many projects undertaken during the year and the many submissions made.

For 2018 John Dowson will continue as President, with Jack Turnbull as acting honorary treasurer, and a committee including Mike Finn, Agnieshka Kiera, Adele Gaskin, Robert Bodkin, and Ian Molyneux.

Submissions Due today on Police Complex

Yes, you have Christmas shopping to do, but you may want to make a submission today (or tomorrow should still be acceptable to planning@fremantle.wa.gov.au) on the 31-41 Henderson Street former courthouse and police courthouse and warders cottages complex.

Gerard O’Brien bought the large site of around 8000 sqm. He has rushed plans into council to get ahead of Sirona, who are apparently still running around  trying to get their money together. Gerard O’Brien of Silverleaf, with major plans for Coles Woolstore site, Mannings Buildings and the police complex, will be keen to get tenants ahead of his rival developers Sirona and the City of Fremantle.

The police complex proposal is for a 6 storey hotel and bars.

To help you, the following comments may be of use:

a) The 6 storey hotel proposal is too high for this heritage area and should be limited to 4 storeys. The developer references the Myer building, but that is too far away and is not a good precedent. Even the Queensgate car park opposite should not be used as a precedent, as it is a damaging anomoly in a heritage precinct.

b) The heritage impact statement prepared for the developer is deficient given this site lies in the buffer zone of the world heritage listed prison. It states that this proposal has POSITIVE benefits for the Fremantle Prison and approach but provides little supporting detail.

c) Effect on adjacent Artillery Hall: No mention is made in the heritage impact statement on the effect on the Artillery Drill Hall two metres from this site, where Sunset Events have a tavern licence for 900 people.

d) Parking: The number of car bays required under the town planning scheme are not being provided and nor is cash in lieu being asked for. Given that council is busy selling off its car parks and that most of them are being built on, the situation for essential parking is unsustainable. Existing businesses are being penalised by having newcomers take their car bays without having to contribute.

Lack of Good Public Consultation

The community is not being given a heads up on major developments and has very little time to respond. Fremantle Ports for example, despite having little interest in new developments in town, were asked back in October what they thought of this proposal. Key relevant interested groups like the Fremantle Society and the National Trust should be given notice of what is in the pipeline months ahead.

Membership Fees Due

Please pay your membership fees now.

BSB 633 000

Acc  143193530

(please note on your bank transfer some detail so we can identify you!)

We encourage you to consider becoming a Life Member for $250, but by sending in at least $30 for single and $40 for family membership you are enabling us to commission the reports that have become a major part of our work.

If you have a particular project you would like to see and would like to fund it, please contact us!

Compliments of the Christmas Season

John Dowson
President
The Fremantle Society

john.dowson@yahoo.com

9335 2113

0409223622

Rob Campbell on the new $52 million Administration Building

Very few Fremantle architects are providing commentary on current plans for Fremantle. The Fremantle Society is thrilled that developers want to spend money in Fremantle, but we want good planning. Thank goodness, Fremantle’s senior architect Rob Campbell, active in Fremantle for half a century, is still involved. He has provided the Fremantle Society with the following comments to inform members ahead of their meeting with the Mayor next Tuesday [25 July]  at 7pm at the Meeting Place to ask questions about the King’s Square Project.

The latest development of the proposed new administration building conforms to the old story of the Committee set up to design a horse.

Remember this? The architects describing their prize-winning design − “Materially, the building is conceived as a series of sandstone formations rising up to support a delicate glass prism. White planar elements hover above the streets and define a large verandah. The architecture is clear and coherent… the sandstone references the key historical buildings of Fremantle, the white planar massing alludes to the colour of the ocean liners that frequent the Port City…” Over the top?
Sandstone is not typical of Fremantle; the key reference here is the St. John’s Church limestone.

However, the architects had successfully used the white planar elements to pull together the difficulties presented them by the competition brief that demanded too big a footprint on the awkward triangular site. Clear and coherent? Not any more. I hear that Councillors decided that it began to look too much like the Myer building, so now we have a collection of awkward and unrelated spaces and an attempt to disguise this behind a metal curtain. A little old lady’s hat and veil trick, which may improve the wearer’s self-esteem but doesn’t fool anyone else.

This façade treatment is at its worst where it abuts and shows no courtesy to the Town Hall.
Perhaps Councillors should acquaint themselves with the public outcry that accompanied the arrival of the Queensgate building on William Street in 1989, particularly its streetscape relationship to the Town Hall. The Daily News headlined −
“Freo stands by its $10m. ugly duckling, doesn’t know if it will turn into a swan or a turkey”.
The Councillors and Officers who then thought that they were clever enough to produce a swan will now be breathing a sigh of relief and giving thanks to know that the turkey is soon to be gobbled up. The current crop of officials should prepare themselves for similar criticism of the present proposal.

The site is still being over-developed, but we now find that the top floor is surplus to Council’s requirements and will be leased out commercially. (The top floor is higher than the Federal Hotel in William Street that has always been the maximum height marker for the Square) Also, that ground floor space on William and Newman Streets will be leased out, leaving no civic function at street level, and ignoring the opportunity to locate the Library at Kings Square ground level. It begins to look as though Council is abusing its own Town Planning scheme to profit as a developer rather than to set civic standards in this sensitive area of the Town.

While there are several, the most awkward space in the whole scheme is the birdsbeak at the corner of Newman and High. At ground floor level, it is an acute triangle, with approximately seven metre sides and four metre base, behind the entrance doors to a restaurant. Imagine yourself − and the furniture − in this space. .Similarly, in the office spaces on levels one and two above. Useless floor space, and so un-Freo where corners are traditionally comfortably rounded. Worse, the metal curtain oversails the ground floor and leaves an unfriendly canyon of public space below.

It is difficult to imagine the thinking behind the two sunken pools on either side of the basement library, except perhaps that the current officials are too young to remember the pools that stood alongside the Town Hall in the 1970s − and what happened to them on most week-ends.

And where there should be some free space to allow the Town Hall to stand alone in its architectural strength, there is now none.”

(ii) Flawed Heritage Impact Statement

New Council Building gets Heritage Tick of Approval − Herald 1/7/17.

“This headline is based on a Heritage Impact Statement prepared for the City of Fremantle in April.

I am not sure what a Heritage Impact Statement (HIS) is for. It certainly is not a substitute for a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) which is the nationally and internationally recognised structure for assessing and managing the impact of new development on places of cultural significance. (ref.UNESCO; ICOMOS; AICOMOS etc.)

In my submission on the Kings Square development project in January, I pointed out this omission
and included a prototype CMP. Council staff thought so little of this idea that they did not bother to pass it on to Councillors.

This lack of a rigorously argued and structured overall conservation plan and policies for Kings Square is acknowledged in this HIS; instead, the conclusions are a series of straw-man questions or statements on the impact that the new building will have on the existing Statements of Significance listed in the Municipal Inventory for the Town Hall, St. Johns Church, and Kings Square. eg. −

The Town Hall.
Q: Aesthetic value?The building is a fine example of Victorian Free Classical style civic architecture
demonstrating the civic pride and confidence of the Fremantle Community.
A: There will be no adverse impact.
The new proposal is probably not going to change the style category as defined by Irving&Apperly.
The real question is − will it enhance or diminish the way we see ‘this fine example’ on the ground?

Q: Streetscape contribution?The building occupies a strategic position at the intersection of William
and High Streets making a major contribution to the streetscape of the West End of the City.
A: No adverse impact.
The view of the Town Hall from the West End is its most important contribution to the streetscape,
and brevity required in the documentation of the Inventory leaves it at that. But it is not the only value it has to offer. It also demonstrates the Fremantle habit of comfortably turning around corners using curved facades, towers or turrets. This fundamental principle is flatly contradicted at the new building intersection of High and Newman where a most adverse impact on the townscape occurs. That question is not raised in the Heritage Impact Statement.

Q: The Clock Tower?The Town Hall Clock Tower is a well established landmark in Fremantle,
identifying the civic centre of the city.
A: The prominence of the clock will not be diminished.
Perhaps we will still be able to check the time, but in particular, the top floor of the new building will intrude on the architectural view of the tower as a whole on the approaches to the City, and in the closer perspectives from William, Adelaide and Queen Streets, as is well-illustrated in the drawings included in the Heritage Impact Statement.

On the impact of the new building on the townscape of the Square the HIS has not much to say. The latest set of perspective sketches are showing an entirely new and different character to the Square, but this question is not asked in the HIS. However, there is a positive contribution in the statement that − Reopening of Newman Court to traffic will also enhance the urban form of the original square. The reopened street should return to its original name − Newman Street. Yes.

In general, the HIS seems to examine the impact of the new development on the existing paper-work, not the reality of its physical and visual impact on the existing cultural landscape that is Kings Square.”

R.McK.Campbell. July, 2017.

Notes for Wednesday 26: Council Meeting 6pm

(i) 2 Henry Street 5 Storey Proposal: The key issue is 2 Henry Street, a massive and insane 5 storey proposal for the old Customs Buildings in the West End.

If Council had rented those buildings to house its administration instead of renting a football club’s facilities, this project may not have been spawned.

It is depressing that so much time and effort has to go into countering appalling architecture and proposals like this one, rather than supporting those who want to spend their money following the rules. The report recommendation is for refusal, but remember that the mayor and other councillors have recently damaged the West End with 5 storey proposals being supported at 8 Pakenham Street (Quest Apartments) and in Bannister Street (Hougomont Hotel).

In fact one of those councillors, Ingrid Waltham, said at a planning meeting she had no problem with 5 storeys in the West End, contrary to her own council’s policies.

A key issue about the West End is that new works should not project up above the old. The mayor and some councillors are trying to redefine heritage and to rewrite the heritage rules to allow new works which do significantly project up above the old. Thankfully, the council report on 2 Henry Street makes it clear:

- the proposed new building, where it projects above the parapet height of the existing heritage facades, is not supportable.

Please send your views before Wednesday to: members@fremantle.wa.gov.au

(ii) There are many other important issues in the agenda. One is the tentative officer support for a look into third party appeal rights, an issue put to the council recently by the Fremantle Society.

Another is the dismal budget allocation to the urgent and pressing need for a greater tree canopy cover in Fremantle, the second worst cover of any council in WA. While council has spent millions on projects and consultants in other areas, it has only allocated $130,000 to try and meet its promise for a 20% tree canopy cover by 2020, a promise which has now been greatly watered down and which will be impossible to achieve.

Also see the discussion on sustainable cities (an important discussion on ‘doing density’ effectively), and new planning schemes for Beaconsfield and White Gum Valley.

John Dowson, President, The Fremantle Society