The recent criticism by Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt and others to the scale model of the proposed Planning Scheme Amendment 49 demand deeper scrutiny. We read that the model is worse than worst-case scenario and that it will never look like this. We hear that opponents are only coming up with yesteryear’s arguments and have aligned themselves with the Fremantle Herald community newspaper, as if that is a crime or an act of indecency. Let me ask more probing questions then, and ask the Mayor where his promised openness and transparency is, why the City of Fremantle made no attempt to show us the horror this model shows. Why did the City only produce two dimensional plans and not a three dimensional model, when it is well known the majority of people cannot visualise in their head from a flat plan what the 3D reality would look like. Was the City aware how horrendously shocking it would look if the public could see a model of all the 17 sites, and what a huge impact this would have on a tiny part of the city. Was that the reason a 3D model was not produced?
The City should have produced a 3D model, even an interactive one, where we could have played around with additional heights and setbacks. We asked for it before the, flawed and inadequate, community consultation process started, as we asked for something like building blocks to play with at the interactive workshops. The City did not act on those requests, and hence it has been accused of spin and being less than open.
The City did two walking tours to the sites, again asking people to imagine just by standing there and listening, what the sites might look like, but in a transparent process the City could have had tens of helium filled balloons at the sites showing the maximum heights allowed under their new PSA 49. None of this happened because we have to assume the City did not want to shock us all with too much reality and detail, so the least we could imagine what they proposed, the less opposition they would get, must have been their way of thinking. That has backfired now with the scale model the Fremantle Society and Fremantle Herald produced, and they don’t like it a bit, because hordes of people are outraged and signing the petitions against PSA 49, and that cannot be ignored.
We have to ask what is the desperation of including so many sites in PSA 49 when schemes are amended all the time, so the City could have done it bit by bit. Why for example could we not start with the Woolstores shopping centre and Gas&Coke sites, and see after those developments have been finished if the people of Fremantle like what has been built and if we want more off it.
For example Kings Square, our city square, should never have been included in PSA 49. Place making community workshops about Kings Square never heard the call to built lots of big buildings around or near it, but were all about community involvement and creating a square where people would want to linger longer. I doubt they meant in the shades of tall buildings.
It is also remarkable that the most outspoken councillor on PSA 49, Andrew Sullivan, who addressed the workshops and community groups, has not spoken out publicly after the community consultation process finished. Maybe community criticism to PSA 49 is just seen as a nuisance by council that stops them from going ahead anyway, and the consultation process was simply tokenism they do not want to act upon?
The Mayor should not walk around and dismiss the scale model by saying it will never be built like that, when no one, not even Brad Pettitt, knows what will or can be built, because PSA 49 is ambiguous and not detailed enough.
Brad Pettitt also dismisses alternative sites like South Beach, Knutsford Street, etc. as not creating inner city living, but isn’t the desire for more buildings and people in the inner city, so that retail will grow and the city be revitalised? Does the Mayor believe people who would live in the new Knutsford Street site buildings would not shop and socialise in Fremantle, when it is not even a ten minute bike ride into the inner city from there? How can he dismiss those sites as somehow irrelevant to the growth and revitalisation of the inner city. These sites are, and should be seen, as part of that whole process. But if that view was accepted, less buildings might be required in the inner city, and that is against the plans of this council, who seem to want to dig in, because they know best and ideally we should all shut up and not interfere with their important business.
I suggest the City finally produces its own three-dimensional walk around, interactive scale model. Show us the different heights, the allowable bonus heights for excellence, the set backs, the whole caboodle you propose, so we can see for ourselves and make up our minds. Don’t blame those who put the scale model on display from not getting it right, or misleading the public with it, when you had every chance, and all the time and information to create one yourselves. Not having done so makes your promises of transparency and openness just sound a bit too much like typical politicians’ spin and that is very disappointing indeed.
And be happy Brad and Robert there was not more money available to make the 3×3 metre model even bigger. Imagine the shock impact a 6×6 metre model would have had.
Go back to the drawing boards, leave the egos at home, and admit PSA 49 as it stands is neither acceptable nor workable. It is too big at all levels and needs to be reduced to less sites, less height and less bulk, and it needs to all be finely detailed and show the community why, or if, we actually need all those buildings in inner city Fremantle.