As a still wet behind the ears President of the Fremantle Society I thank Bryden Dalitz for his Thinking Allowed (Fremantle Herald 4-12-10) because it gives me a perfect opportunity to respond. I make no apologies for the effectiveness of Fremantle’s peak heritage lobby group, the Fremantle Society, we are good at what we do; perhaps Bryden could look closer to home and lay some blame for “economic growth being severely lacking” at the feet of the business lobby group for whom he works and question why the Chamber of Commerce has not achieved similar success. Bryden sends mixed messages berating the heritage lobby for their recent work but complimenting us by telling readers; “..citizens of Fremantle should be grateful to groups who went against the zeitgeist of decades past and prevented many wonderful and iconic buildings that characterise Fremantle from being destroyed.” A case of wisdom in hindsight …..
Bryden sings the praises of ING’s Victoria Quay proposal, whilst criticising opposition to it. I argue a large box shopping centre with multi-storey carpark is not the highest and best use for Victoria Quay, it would not “bring people to the West End“; they would drive past local businesses to park, shop and leave, as at Bondi Central in Sydney and Harbourtown in West Perth. But of course ING did get planning approval, but then chose to do nothing until their approval is close to lapsing.
Similarly, Council recently granted a third 2 year approval for a heritage building in the West End which remains boarded up rather than adding to Fremantle’s vibrancy. I must here mention Fremantle’s biggest disgrace, the Cantonment Street woolstores which Council granted development approval over 4 years ago, yet nothing has been done, effectively stifling that end of town.
Bryden, it’s not groups trying to protect our assets, our point of difference, our heritage, that holds Fremantle back, but owners of significant sites and buildings allowing them to disintegrate along with Fremantle by land-banking instead of developing, maintaining and even using these assets.
Enjoy your trip to Melbourne and when you are in hip Lygon or Acland Streets check out the buildings, you will find low rise heritage, like Fremantle’s West End. Go to Sydney and check out Paddington, travel the world, I bet you come back to Fremantle.
Jon Strachan 9-12-2010