Last night’s vote by Fremantle Council not to approve Sunset Events’ plan for a brewery and larger concerts at J Shed represents a massive shift away from previous, virtually unanimous, support.

Sunset Events has stirred public animosity against the organiser’s attitude to local residents regarding noise and antisocial behaviour and lack of access by the public to Arthur Head. In the face of public opinion, Sunset increased their requests to include a brewery and increased patronage.

Three of Fremantle’s major organisations opposed these plans. The Fremantle Inner City Residents Association (FICRA), Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association (FRRA) and the Fremantle Society have continually lobbied councillors in relation to all aspects of the support offered by council to Sunset.

Council has, until now, steadfastly ignored the public’s wishes. At last night’s meeting (22nd June) the Mayor, Councillors Pemberton and Wainwright declared conflicts of interest. It was notable that Andrew Sullivan was one of two councillors to support Sunset Events. The other was Councillor Hume.


One resident, who did not wish to be named, underlined public sentiment, commenting: “I assume … there will be more lobbying of the WAPC unless Sunset finally gives up, which attitude has not been characteristic of them so far”

He continued: “Perhaps it’s just my cynicism about everything to do with them, but I get a sense of lack of responsibility on the part of some elected members, of some sort of manoeuvring. They were so in favour for so long and dragged the community through all this for so long. Where’s the morality?”


There have however, been noticeable shifts in council’s attitude recently and these have to be applauded and encouraged. There is no question that the strengths of FICRA, FRRA and the Fremantle Society are growing. It is likely these organisations will support candidates in next year’s council elections to ensure a change of direction related to many issues. These changes must include unequivocal support for heritage boundaries, higher quality architecture, and height restrictions. The Fremantle Society does not support high rise buildings in heritage precincts and glass block architecture.

At the recent election debate the Fremantle Society questioned candidates in relation to their support for heritage values asking:

“In 1980 the Federal Government listed the West End of Fremantle as a precinct on its heritage database, where it remains unchanged today. Fremantle Council has proposed a heritage listing of a smaller area it still calls the West End, removing Arthur Head, the Esplanade, the railway station, and King’s Square. Would candidates support the original area being listed?”

This did not seem relevant to the candidates. However, the question is pertinent as the Federal Government’s 1980 listing of boundaries HAS not changed. The Fremantle Society will be asking our elected federal member to endorse the 1980 boundaries. The current precinct listing has whittled down to the West End leaving important areas as satellites. They include Arthur Head, The Arts Centre, Railway Station. A larger precinct will protect the entire against low quality, high rise developments. Currently the area is being whittled away from the edges.


Councillor Rachel Pemberton has endorsed the Fremantle Society’s moves to scrap the controversial DEVELOPMENT ASSESSMENT PANELS. Her support follows Mayor Brad Pettitt’s criticism of the State Government’s Development Assessment Panel (DAP)  revealed by The Fremantle Herald (June 10th  2016) in which he outlined councillors had voted against a plan for a six story development in Queen Victoria Street, Fremantle. Council’s decision was over turned by the DAP.

Rachel Pemberton attended a dinner organised by the Fremantle Society at which guest speakers explained their support for the “Scrap the DAP” movement which is now supported by at least nine of  WA’s Councils.

Ron Norris, Mayor of Mosman Park, and Subiaco Councillor Julie Matheson were guest speakers at the dinner, held at the Maya Indian Restaurant. They outlined  their councils’ opposition to the DAP and the chaos it has created. Nine councils in WA now support scrapping the scheme and simplifying the bureaucracy which surrounds the State’s planning processes.


Fremantle Council has to deal with several confusing design processes: The council’s own Design Advisory Committee; the council’s Planning Committee; the full council; the Metropolitan and South West Joint Design Advisory Panel (J DAP, the local DAP shared with Cockburn) and ultimately, the State Administrative Tribunal.

Fremantle Society President, John Dowson, introduced Mayor Norris and councillor Matheson and both outlined the complexity of systems which make it difficult for councils to make their own decisions related to matters of design and social impact. They also alluded to the potential for cronyism within the systems.

During a robust question time City Ward Councillor Rachel Pemberton stated she would do all she could to support the ‘Scrap the Dap’ movement.

The planning process must be simplified to ensure local councils have the final say on what is built in their communities. This may encourage councillors to look closely at the Fremantle Society’s support for high quality architecture. If the buck for poor development stops at the door of elected councillors there may be more chance they will listen to voters.



A timeline of the DAP process has been supplied by Fremantle Society committee member Adele Carles who opposed the DAP from the outset. These links will connect you to the material.

• May 2010 – The Liberal Government and the Labor Opposition supported the DAPs legislation in  the State Parliament.   Click on link to see Hansard debate  Approvals and Related Reforms (No. 4) (Planning) Bill 2009

•  2011 –  I wrote to all Fremantle Councillors advising them about the dangerous DAPs law that had now taken effect and them to tighten the Local Town Planning Scheme as this would bind future DAPs decisions.  Click link to read this letter        CBD Heights

 • 2012 – In a test case, the DAPs approved a development in Bayswater that the whole Bayswater Council had rejected. Again, I warned Fremantle Council that the only way to ward off future bad DAPs decisions in Fremantle was a robust, protective  Town Planning Scheme.  Click link  Chickens Coming Home to Roost on DAPs

2012 – Fremantle ignored my warnings and took the opposite action.  It unanimously amended its  Town Planning Scheme (amendment 49)  to INCREASE HEIGHTS  in the CBD of Fremantle.  It knowingly removed height restrictions in its Town Planning Scheme that previous generations of councillors had worked hard to secure.

 February 2012 – I tabled Don Whittington’s 442 strong petition in Parliament calling on the State Government to ensure the built heritage and human scale of Fremantle be protected Act to Protect Fremantle’s Future

June 2016 –  Brad Pettitt complains that the DAPS is bad for Fremantle!! Yes, we know this…we predicted this 5 years ago, but the horse has now bolted.  Click on link to read  Mayor gives DAPs a blunt assessment.





Development at Any Cost?


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


Wednesday 20 April, 2016 at 7pm.

Notre Dame Uni cnr Croke and Cliff Street

 ‘$220 million’ King’s Square Business 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.


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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Free Public Meeting in the fabulous Tannock Hall.

Presenters Dr Linley Lutton, Urban Planner, along with John Dowson, President of the Fremantle Society will show you the Good (the Fremantle Society vision for King’s Square), the Bad (the Fremantle Council’s King’s Square Business Plan) and the Ugly (Fremantle Council’s refusal to listen to ratepayers).

The Fremantle Society enrolled the considerable talents of its members to put forward a positive vision for Fremantle’s most important civic space, instead of Fremantle Council’s proposal to destroy it by building a $50 million administration centre there.

The Fremantle Society commissioned a land valuer to assess the King’s Square Business Plan, and the news is not good. The Council has pulled the wool over the eyes of ratepayers with a misleading and costly plan.

The mayor and councillors who support the seriously flawed Business Plan should face serious consequences.

Crying Shame


Fremantle Council heritage staff and Heritage Council staff have spectacularly failed to ensure good quality outcomes for the West End in recent building works.

The building pictured here on the corner of High and Adelaide Streets has been well restored above the awning, but no efforts were made to have the shopfront harmonise with the upper storey heritage. The incongruity is alarming and totally unsatisfactory.

The value of good shopfronts is recognised around the world. They are fundamental to the success of quality shopping precincts, especially in heritage areas. Fremantle staff are doing nothing to improve or restore shopfronts.

Ironically, the mayor and council removed this shop and this area from the West End Conservation Area. The loss of half of the listed area of the West End Consservation Area was done to make things easier for developers and that has unfortunately passed unnoticed by most people.

Hougoumont Hotel extensions

(The following submission on the Hougoumont Hotel extensions at 15 Bannister Street, Fremantle, was made today to all councillors)

The Fremantle Society is concerned at the repeated damage being done to the important West End by mediocre and lax appovals issued by Fremantle Council.

Tonight the Planning Committee is dealing with another controversial application, stage 2 of the Hougoument Hotel in Bannister Street.

The Fremantle Society agrees with the officers’ recommendation to REFUSE the application.

West End Conservation Policy DGF 14 Part 4.2.2 (a) states: “The appropriate height is one which respects the scale and reinforces the integrity of the existing streetscape. The Council’s officers and advisers believe that in principle this to be a maximimum height of three storeys, on the street frontage.”

Further in the report it is stated: “It is also considered that reducing the height of the building to three storeys at the street boundary would generally allow the proposal comply (sic) with the principles of the Burra Charter and the objectives of the West End Conservation Policy.”

That is supported by the Fremantle Society.

The Fremantle Society is concerned to hear that an argument for extra height is being put because the large Fowler building is ‘adjacent’. The Fowler building is in fact down the end of the street and at right angles to this property and there is no conceivable way that a right minded person could conclude the proposed hotel is ‘adjacent’ to the Fowler building.

The developer is also claiming concessions because the proposal is claimed by the developer to have ‘design excellence’. How a large group of containers stacked one on top of the other can be construed as ‘excellence’ is open to contention and debatable given the large mass proposed.

The Fremantle Society agrees with the applicant (p176 Planning Agenda letter from applicant April 2016): “It is also important to note that traditional buildings were not built with upper floor setbacks, rather they were built to confidently address the street. The provision of an upper floor setback is a contemporary design guideline solution whch departs from traditional building form and is in effect a crude default solution to moderate the impact of perceived building bulk in the absence of design excellence.”

This is a rarely understood but important aspect of the built form of the West End and on this basis the Fremantle Society does not support a fourth storey on the street nor a set back roof terrace with all the built features shown in the plans.

Finally, we ask councillors to ascertain: Why are referrals to the State Heritage Office repeatedly addressed with informal and overly brief comments instead of detailed assessments from the planning committee of the State Heritage Council (see p166 of agenda: letter from State Heritage Office 24 November 2015: “The comments contained in this letter are not made under section 11 of Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990 but are provided informally.” )

According to our advice, such a process contravenes the Act and opens your decision to legal appeal, which we will be considering if approval is given for this project with non conforming additions.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society