Greater Fremantle – Opinion Piece by President John Dowson

Fremantle must grow its boundaries. It has a population not much greater than 100 years ago

greater-fremantle-044367b2-e2b1-49fe-891a-d3a5b9f6402aFremantle Society Support Area left of Blue Line Below Being Added to Fremantle at the Moment

Adin Lang initiated a Greater Fremantle campaign but was hung out to dry at a large public meeting last week at Hilton PCYC when he was given no support from Fremantle Council. The Herald reported that Fremantle Deputy Mayor Coggin and councillor Hume were present but did not speak because “Fremantle had not officially endorsed the boundary shift”.

But Fremantle Council encouraged Adin Lang to pursue the boundary reform and will be making a submission supporting the same boundary extensions. Adin Lang was told Fremantle Council would attend the meeting and participate. Cr Coggin, who is paid $1,000 a week to represent Fremantle’s interests, and Cr Hume attended the meeting but said nothing.

The incendiary meeting, with vehement criticism of Fremantle Council, follows other rejections of a larger Fremantle, when East Fremantle overwhelmingly voted to stay independent of Fremantle, and hundreds of North Fremantle residents more recently voted to leave Fremantle and join Mosman Park.

The Society’s preferred option

Earlier the Fremantle Society met with Adin Lang and was impressed with his passion for Fremantle. Although not agreeing with his proposed area which includes Hamilton Hill, the Fremantle Society did agree to make a submission seeking the area south of Fremantle to the South Fremantle Power Station to be added to the municipal boundary of Fremantle on the basis of historical and heritage associations.

While more modest that the current Greater Fremantle push, it is considered more achievable at the moment, and more relevant to Fremantle and the area is shown in the map above being to the left of the blue line. The area sought by Greater Fremantle is bounded in red. The yellow line is the current southern border of Fremantle.

Council’s survey

The animosity towards Fremantle Council as shown at last week’s meeting is developing, and spending $200,000 a year on another newsletter (The Pulse) in addtion to all its other communication is not the answer. The answers can be found in an analysis of the Catalyse Survey done in 2015 about Fremantle Council’s performance, and a comparison with other councils and former councils.

While the $30,000 survey found Fremantle Council did well with festivals and youth, in almost every single category of the survey Fremantle Council did worse than the industry average.

Around 25 councils are surveyed each time. Fremantle came in 18th. Here are some findings of those ‘very satisfied’ with the average of all councils in brackets. In many cases satisfaction rates were higher in 2005 when Peter Tagliaferri was mayor.

Some statistics

Overall satisfaction with council: 29% (average 39%)

Satisfaction with council leadership: 21% (average 26% – was higher in 2005)

Openness and Transparency: 14% (average 23% – was higher in 2005)

How Community is Consulted: 19% (average 22% – was higher in 2005)

How Community is Informed: 19% (average 27% – was higher in 2005

Control of graffiti and anti social behaviour: 19% (average 35% – was higher in 2005)

Streetscapes: 26% (average 37% – was higher in all previous surveys)

Parks and Green Spaces: 45% (average 57% – was higher in 2005)

Seniors: 23% (average 40% – was higher in 2005)

The most worrying finding perhaps relates to community perceptions about economic development. Only 6% were very satisfied compared with the average of 14%. 40% were ‘satisfied’ but the figure in 2005 was 70%.

In terms of how the city centre is being developed only 17% were ‘very satisfied” . The average among councils was 33%.

Parking remains an issue – only 15% very satisfied against an average of 27% for all councils.

Having paid for these survey results, council should be held accountable and made to improve.


Bad News and Good News





Tsunami of Poor Quality Development Continues

The bad news is that yet another low quality oversized building is proposed for the heritage heart of Fremantle as above.

The bad news is that council said the 5 storey backpacker box is not a significant development and therefore the public doesn’t need to know about it.

The good news is that following two letters from the Fremantle Society  to the Fremantle Council and a front page story in today’s Herald, they now admit it is a significant development, and therefore we are allowed to know about it.

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.


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
The Fremantle Society


The Past Should Inform the Future

But for a Few Major Planning Errors Like Johnston Court and Myer We Could Still Have a Homogenous Historic Town Centre 

This aerial view c1980 is helpful in understanding the evolution of the town centre.

a9fb1173-dd44-412d-865b-952aa00b46b8High Street runs up the middle to King’s Square where council installed large water fountains can be seen and blocked off through traffic.The massive bulk of Myer on the east side of the square dominates with the car park behind. Next to Myer is Woolworths, a few years before the council built Queensgate on that site. Woolworths and Coles moved around to different Fremantle locations over the years, generally doing damage to heritage properties in the process. A point in case is the new Coles at the top left of the photo next to the basilica. Coles replaced the beautiful convent.

On the very left with the striped roof is part of Fremantle’s greatest wool store (now Coles), which council allowed to be demolished soon after this image was taken. It could have provided office space for 100 years. To the right of it sits council’s 1965 Westgate Mall project (see today’s Herald page 5). This £2 million refurbishment with Boans and 26 other retail tenancies was hailed as a cost effective project for ratepayers, supposedly only costing them £80,000 after lot sales. The next Council project, Queensgate, by the time it is sold at a bargain basement price to Sirona, will have cost ratepayers many millions.

Dominating the picture is the 1970 Johnston Court block of flats. Unlike the current 52 Adelaide Street proposed block of flats, the same height as Johnston Court,  that council sent to the Monday 19 September DAP meeting, Johnston Court at least has a court, or areas of open space, and its face to Adelaide Street is narrow. However, it is currently the single biggest blight in the whole area. Without it and Myer, the scale of the original historic town would be largely intact. Unfortunately council now regard Johnston Court heights as being OK in that area, an area immediately adjacent to King’s Square, one of the few town squares anywhere in Australia.

Council decided in 2006 that tall buildings were supposed to be built in the east end of Fremantle, not in its heart. And, with the future relocation of container traffic to Cockburn and the opening up of North Quay land for development, much greater heights there could take the pressure off Fremantle’s sensitive town centre scale. That scale is a valuable economic asset which should not be damaged.

Change in the wind for DAPs

This article from the Weekend West Australian of 17-18 September refers to the anticipated latest development from the Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) on the ongoing saga of Development Assessment Panels (DAPs):

dap-west-aust-walga-report-17-sep-2016-p-26It is disappointing in that it refers to times taken to arrive at decisions, rather than appropriateness of them. The final quote from the Planning Minister is revealing – that applicants are passing over councils for the DAP – thus eliminating a major function of councils as well as indicating dissatisfaction with councils by applicants (or indicating that applicants have found a way of avoiding local planning guidelines) and acknowledging that, if an application could end up with the DAP anyway, why bother going to council at all. It would help somewhat, if the $2M mandatory threshold were fully enforced.

There are a number of interpretations of the situation, most indicating that if councils were the final arbiter, there would be better and more appropriate local control and answerability – something the Fremantle Society believes is lacking under the present system.

Given the Minister has stated she requires changes to DAPs but will not agree to their elimination, the last media release from WALGA provides the best hope yet of at least some advancement in addressing significant concerns, although the proposal for, ” a Ministerial call-in power”, warrants examination and there appears to be no opportunity for community representatives on DAP panels:

Campaign Seeks to Solve System Inefficiencies

Monday, September 12, 2016

 A campaign to change the Development Assessment Panels (DAP) system has received the green light from WA Local Government Association State Council, allowing communities to have their voices heard on large scale developments.

The State Council agreed on Friday, 9 September to support a campaign that lobbies for changes to the Development Assessment Panels.

The campaign will call for the following changes:

  • A full and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of Development Assessment Panels be conducted by an independent organisation.
  • Abolishing the current opt-in mechanism which allows applicants to choose either elected Councils or the DAP as the decision maker in favour of a Ministerial call-in power for projects of state or regional significance, with a minimal value of $20 million, as has been adopted in the eastern states.
  • The Local Government sector be consulted prior to any amendments to the Development Assessment Panels system, to ensure that operational efficiencies can be achieved.

WA Local Government Association President Cr Lynne Craigie said the upcoming state election presents a valuable opportunity to change the flawed DAP system.

“WALGA five-year review of the DAP have proven that the current system has a number of failings,” she said.

“These include exceeding legislated timeframes for development application outcomes, running inefficient meetings and dealing with small-scale development applications rather than projects of that affects the state.

“The suggested changes will deal with these failings and improve the system.”

Messages and Media

The West's Cartoonist, Alston, summed up the situation.
The West’s Cartoonist, Alston, summed up the situation.

Last Wednesday at its monthly council meeting, Fremantle Council controversially canned the annual fireworks show on Australia Day for political reasons, which drew strong criticism from Aboriginal leaders across the nation. The story made the front page of The Australian newspaper and Alston devoted his cartoon (above) to the subject.Some have said that the fireworks issue was deliberately put forward to deflect the heat from the issue of the King’s Square Business Plan, which made the TV, radio and newspaper two days earlier, a subject which got into the media not because the media finally understood what a sham the business case for King’s Square actually is, but  because a celebrity lawyer put his name to the issue.

The council meeting raised the issue of trees on private property, and council indicated that, following public consultation, it may one day require landowners to apply to chop down large trees on their property, instead of council having to do the work of making a significant tree register for private property like the one they did for public property.

Ironically, if a landowner currently wants to demolish a building on his property, his request cannot be refused unless his property is ALREADY on a heritage register. Good luck to the trees.
The tree and tree canopy issue is urgent and important, especially given that Fremantle has the second worst tree canopy cover of any municipality in WA. The council’s target of 20% tree canopy cover by 2020 is impossible to achieve unless council gets out of its political handbooks and into real action. Council has not allocated nearly enough money in this year’s budget to tackle this climate change issue which has significant social and health outcomes as well as environmental ones.
Thanks to Alston and The West for the cartoon.