Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt‘s comments in today’s Fremantle Herald are somewhat of a surprise to me. The Mayor claims the Society has an “entrenched position”. He also said the council plans to hold precinct and public meetings about the changes to the amendment, but doubts they will please the Society members. “They’ll be angry, but they’ll be angry informed” the Mayor said.

We are not (yet) angry, Brad Pettitt, but we are very concerned about council’s plans for the inner city and we want serious changes made to the proposed PSA 49. To say that we have entrenched views is quite dismissive. We have stated our position and suggested changes to PSA 49. If that is having an entrenched position what would you call council’s inflexibility and your willingness to only “tweak” the amendment and not make considerable changes to it? That to me is holding an entrenched position and shows an unwillingness to compromise.

We offered council a robust debate based on mutual respect, so dismissing our concerns is not the way to go. Show us, Brad, that your position is not an entrenched one, and make the right and necessary amendments to the amendment!

Roel Loopers


It is not easy to get media attention for heritage and development related issues, so I am delighted to let our members know that we are doing pretty well at the moment. Chair of the Planning&Heritage Committee Don Whittington has been quoted in the Fremantle Herald in three consecutive issues about our jointly produced scale model on PSA 49.

On Friday I did an evening interview with Graeme Maybury on radio station 6PR on Fremantle’s Planning Scheme Amendment 49. They also interviewed Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt for that program.

Yesterday I was interviewed and photographed by the West Australian, so watch that newspaper, and today they also published my letter on the neglect of heritage buildings in Fremantle. As a result of that letter I have just been interviewed for 15 minutes by Paul Murray on 6PR as well on this subject.

This is very good exposure for the Fremantle Society, even more so as we need to keep the pressure on. Politicians don’t like bad press, so if we name and shame them, they might do a bit more, and more urgently, for our heritage buildings, and the city might consider PSA 49 is simply too big for inner city Fremantle.

Roel Loopers


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.

Roel Loopers


I can’t let Lloyd Hammond’s claim in the Fremantle Herald, that the Fremantle Society has had a horrible year remain unchallenged because it is factually wrong, and unfair to the hard working volunteers on the committee.

It is surprising that Lloyd sees himself as an expert on the Society, and that the Herald takes his word for it, when Lloyd was only a committee member for 3 or 4 months before he dropped out because he could not spend the time. His ‘knowledge’ can therefore only be second hand.

I am a committee member and also chair of the communications committee, and believe the Society rejuvenated and modernised itself with a large and positive public profile. Let me write down what the Society has achieved this year, so you can make up your own mind if we had an annus horibilis. as Lloyd calls it

The Society launched the fascinating Fighting For Fremantle book by Ron and Dianne Davidson, it also launched the Freo Tribe blog and Planet Freo aggregator website. We had a huge week of events during the Heritage Festival, we had stalls at events like the Blues&Roots Festival, the Hulbert Street Fiesta, the May Day celebrations, the Growers Green Sunday Market. We participated with a display at the Old Royal George artists’ exhibition at the Moores building. We organised a Day In The Life Of Fremantle WIKImedia event, where we uploaded hundreds of photos that are now an historic photographic record of Fremantle of that day, and we will participate with events in next month Fremantle Festival. And somewhere in between all that we published a lovely colourful brochure about the Fremantle Society, renovated parts of the Arthur Head cottage that became the headquarters in January, and organised sunset Bocce evenings at the cottage. And there is more!  We wrote submissions to council, sat for hours at council and planning meetings, attended workshops,met council staff, gave media interviews, signed up new members, liaised with book shops, sold books, opened our meeting room for other community groups, etc.

I believe those achievements would be the envy of many a volunteer organisation, because it required dedicated and committed members willing to spend hundreds of hours doing those things, instead of socialising with friends and family.

I enjoy having a chat and drink with Lloyd, but it is too easy for him to sit on the outside and criticise the Fremantle Society committee, when he himself could not find it within him to stay on and try to achieve the changes he might have liked to make.

Did we have a perfect year and could we have done things better? Maybe we could have done more, communicated better internally, or do things differently at times, but we worked very hard. Did we fail and have a horrible year? I don’t think so!

This is my personal opinion, not that of the committee!

Roel Loopers


In response to Don Whittington’s “Jon’s a Gem”

I submitted a letter to the Herald earlier this week, but as with a letter I wrote raising concerns on the Sirona development, it was not published. Since Don Whittington’s letter was published in this week’s Herald, I thought it fair to submit my letter as a blog to the Society’s website in order to clarify what was said. The media doesn’t always report accurately. My letter read:

The Fremantle Society has an enviable track record of achievement, particularly with respect to protecting heritage from substandard development. However, the sports cliché that you’re only as good as your last game is apt, whether in respect to business or politics. Last week’s Herald’s “Impolite Society” gives the impression that I don’t think the Society is doing a good job. My gripe with the Society is its apparent reluctance to publically engage and debate some of the big issues confronting Fremantle. I would have expected the Society to have at least made their position clear by now on the Strategic Sites Plan and even more pressing, the Kings Square Precinct MOU with Sirona Capital. I had hoped that a group with the status of the Fremantle Society and with the ear of council would engage its members, let alone its committee, to flesh out what it thinks is a reasonable position on such issues. Are the members happy with what they know of the Strategic Sites Plan? Do they have any concerns about building heights, open spaces, infrastructure, parking, etc.?

Although the Chook’s article suggests the contrary, this is not about personalities but a wish for the Society to engage both its committee and its membership. Some egos would like to believe otherwise, as indicated in the article. I’m concerned about actions not about personalities. And in that regard, there has been little in the way of engagement of membership this year. As I said to Jenny D’Anger, I have heard that a lot of hard work is being done by the Society behind the scenes (unfortunately that’s not worth reporting). Well why not let the membership know? In the same way that we expect the Council to be transparent, consultative and engaging, the Society membership, of which I am no longer a member, also expects such behaviour from the Society’s committee. A lack of communication leads to distrust.

For all the Society membership knows, the committee may be sitting around discussing whether we should be called the “People’s Front of Fremantle” or the “Fremantle People’s Front” (for Python fans).

Lloyd Hammond

With respect to Don’s letter in today’s Herald, his praise for Jon Strachan is admirable. However, I’m not sure why he felt the need to write the letter. I have never suggested that Jon or anyone else in the Society is not hard working. I think Don completely missed the point of my single criticism; that being purely about poor communication. A different matter entirely. Since the letter, the City of Freo’s MOU with Sirona has been passed by council, and not a peep from the Fremantle Society. As Brad Pettitt says in this morning’s Fin. Review, “Sirona Capital are now in the ‘box seat’” [with respect to developing the site]. I can only assume that the Society supports the City of Fremantle’s position.


David Hattrick, a letter writer to the Fremantle Herald in this week’s edition, must have a deranged brain when he believes it is “a quirky comparison” to compare the tragic death of Penelope Dingle with “misguided residents drawn to the false premise of the Fremantle Society”

It is deeply sad that Penelope and Peter Dingle made errors of judgment and that she suffered so much before she died, while more traditional medical efforts might have prolonged or saved her life, but what on earth has this got to do with concerned residents of Fremantle being members of the Fremantle Society?

According to Hattrick “these people are positively dangerous if taken too serious…..” Why? What harm has the Fremantle Society done to this city? The West End of town might well have been bulldozed if it wasn’t for them!

It is my belief that the Society is working for Fremantle’s modern future while embracing the heritage past. In what way is that dangerous?

Dangerous people are those who are ill informant and ignorant and always out to find scapegoats and lay blame on others. I consider David Hattrick, who wants to “reinvent Fremantle” one of those.

Roel Loopers


Fremantle Chamber of Commerce CEO Peter Nolin‘s attack on Councilor John Dowson and other “heritage watchdogs” in the Fremantle Herald is an attack on the intelligence of the people in this city. Nolin should get rid of the blinkers he is wearing and also open both eyes, so he can see the world as it is. To blame the demise of retailers in this town on the “Dowson Effect” is sheer stupidity, as many retailers all over  metropolitan Perth are suffering, not only those in Fremantle.

Nolin appears to want to step in the footsteps of those who believe Fremantle should be bulldozed and start from scratch, as his attack on John Dowson suggests that looking after our heritage is akin to killing retail in Fremantle. That is bollocks with a capital B!

Councilor Dowson has done tremendous work for this city for many many years. His love and passion for Fremantle cannot be questioned and neither can his proffessionalism. Peter Nolin’s attack on him and heritage groups is totally unwarranted!

Nolin suggests that preserving our heritage is detrimental for retail in this town. That can only come from a one-eyed person ignoring the facts. Let’s check it out.

FACT ONE: More buyers are turning to the internet for shopping. A result of the ”Dowson Effect” as Nolin calls it?

FACT TWO: 140 Colorado shops all over Australia are closing. A result of the Dowson Effect, Peter Nolin?

FACT THREE: All Angus and Roberts bookstores closed. A result of the Dowson Effect, Peter Nolin?

FACT FOUR: All Borders bookstores closed. A result of the Dowson Effect, Peter Nolin?

FACT FIVE: “Retailers are failing to meet the high demands of shoppers” says Wayne Spencer of the Retail  Traders Association. A result of the Dowson Effect, Peter Nolin?

FACT SIX: I speak with hundreds of tourists when on guide tour duties at the Round House. Many say they will return for a longer period because Fremantle has such beautiful old building, while Perth is so bland.  These people eat, drink, sleep and shop in Fremantle. THAT is the result of the Downson Effect, Mr Nolin!

Heritage preservation has been good for Fremantle, Peter Nolin, and instead of blaming those who tirelessly fight against the destruction of Fremantle’s unique identity, you and your retailers need to get off your high horses, work harder and better and do things differently. Pull your heads out of the sand and start making the changes your Chamber of Commerce needs to make to remain relevant.

Roel Loopers

P.S. This is my personal opinion. I do not speak for the Fremantle Society!


Joint letter to Editor

Dear Editor

We write in response to “Reece a lone voice against festival plan” (Herald12-2-11) as the Presidents of Fremantle’s community based history and heritage organisations. We represent members with a wide range of ages and professional expertise that have strong connections to the city’s past and who are committed to its sustainable future. Both organisations believe that, through a knowledge and understanding of and commitment to our past, our cultural capital is enhanced and enriched.

We therefore believe it is vital to maintain an independent Heritage Festival that increases understanding of the past and engages in a broader debate that focuses on the future. A well-run heritage festival allows the Fremantle community and visitors to be part of that process.

We dispute the proposition that the Heritage Festival is untenable and believe that it is not only sustainable but, by reviewing its charter and including events that allow opportunities for participants to engage in a broader dialogue, we will enhance its current profile and ensure the Heritage Festival is a highlight of Fremantle’s rich calendar of events.  In retaining and enlivening the Heritage Festival we contribute to the economic, social and environmental benefits enjoyed by our port city.

Bigger is not better. Bigger means one voice is diminished at best, lost at worst. We encourage the council to review and refine the Heritage Festival and to ensure that the international reputation Fremantle enjoys continues to engage and challenge locals and visitors alike.


Jon Strachan, President Fremantle Society and Anne Brake, President, Fremantle History Society

Festivals set to be merged

(The following article by Jenny D’Anger comes from this week’s Herald, and is posted here with permission.)

Fremantle city council looks set to merge the annual week-long Fremantle Heritage Festival into the Fremantle Festival.

Critics fear it will dilute the heritage festival and ultimately lead to it being killed off, but one councillor has claimed it is “untenable” in its current form.

The council’s cultural development working group — an advisory committee consisting of councillors, staff and residents — last week proposed killing of the week-long mid-year festival as a stand-alone event and “collapsing” it into the razzamattaz Fremantle Festival, held in November.

Cr Tim Grey-Smith chairs the group and he told the Herald he’s “excited about moving the heritage festival” saying “it will do wonders for the event”.

Claiming the festival in its current form is “untenable” he says “combining” it with the Fremantle Festival will secure its future and “bring more people from outside the city in to appreciate the city’s heritage buildings”.

Mayor Brad Pettitt backs the change “[only] if the result was an improved heritage fesetival”.

“[The festival] is highly valued and I would not support it being watered down or lost,” he said, confident the change would give the port city “greater bang for its buck and a better heritage festival without greater cost”.

But the she’ll be right scenario doesn’t wash with opponents who say the move will lead to the festival’s dilution and eventually its demise: “The proposed merger is a piece of cultural vandalism,” working group member and Fremantle Historical Society vice-president Bob Reece told the Herald.

East ward Cr John Dowson hates the idea too, saying it’s the latest in a string of decisions that’ve seen heritage slip from the council’s radar: “It will be over my dead body that council gets rid of the long-running Heritage Festival,” he said. “[It] should be left where it is as a major annual event.”

Beaconsfield Cr Josh Wilson says the plan will “make Fremantle a festival city of the highest quality possible”.

Heritage axe

“Making Heritage events a significant part of the Freo Festival potentially means a wider audience and administrative cost saving that can be spent on exhibitions and performances.”

Deputy mayor Doug Thompson also reckons there are “definite synergies” in a single festival and notes “the Fremantle Festival itself is now part of our heritage”. North ward colleague Cr Robert Fittock says there are “cost benefits”: “There could be a bigger budget, a bigger audience, a bigger event.”


South ward Cr Andrew Sullivan was also receptive, saying a “small, cash-strapped” council like Fremantle had to weight up costs and he’d rather see money going towards actual heritage projects. “But there will always be a need to allocation a small amount of money for the education, promotion and recognition associated with a heritage festival.”

Cr Georgie Adeane wasn’t keen, saying “to combine the two festivals would definitely diminish and dilute the importance of heritage in Freo”.

Hilton ward Cr Sam Wainwright was waiting for more information before taking a stand. Fremantle Society president Jon Strachan “strongly opposes” the move, saying heritage will lose out.

Doomed laundry ‘last vestige’ of Americans

(The following article by Jenny D’Anger comes from this week’s Herald, and is posted here with permission.)

Fremantle’s heritage forces are rallying to save a WWII-era laundry behind the arts centre that had been used by US troops.

The massive shed is owned by WA Museums, which wants to knock the building down before handing the site to Fremantle council to manage.

A museum representative sought to woo councillors with the siren song of a new building but planning committee chair Andrew Sullivan says it’s more likely the land would just end up being a parking lot.

Despite half the building’s timber trusses being devoured by white ants, Cr Sullivan says the place deserves salvation.

He was alone, however, with others on the committee saying restoration would be too expensive.

“I don’t understand… we don’t have the money to fix the shed but we do have money to build a new one,” Cr Sullivan mused.

Americans were billeted in the former lunatic asylum during WWII (Fremantle’s role as a major submarine base was a well-kept war secret), importing Oregon trusses to build a laundry for the thousands of troops and sailors traveling through the port city.

“It’s the last vestige of the Americans in Fremantle I can find,” Fremantle Society president Jon Strachan says. He is scathing of the museum’s management of the building, citing it as an example of “demolition by neglect”.

Fremantle History Society president Anne Brake says heritage is about referencing the day-to-day of ordinary lives — especially during extraordinary times such as war.

“Some things are important even though when you first look at them it doesn’t seem important,” she says.

Fremantle local Madison Lloyd-Jones is researching a PhD at Notre Dame University on the US influence on Fremantle during the war.

It had a significant impact “beyond defence”, especially on the lives of women, she says.

“With so little evidence left of this period, being able to preserve the laundry would be significant in maintaining a tangible memory of a very unique time in Fremantle’s and, more broadly Austra1ia’s history.”

Retired US Seventh Fleet commander Richard Tilghman, now a Melville local, says “it’s a shame part of the joint history can’t be saved”.

Given the planning committee’s blessing for demolition, the heritage lobby is pinning its hopes on next week’s full council meeting (on Tuesday due to the Australia Day holiday) to save the laundry.