Twin Towers of Good Governance -Transparency and Accountability

(the photo at the top is from the Warders Cottages development proposal which goes to JDAP this Friday at 9.30am in the Fremantle Council Chamber – see below)

Fremantle Council issued a press release today headlined “Last Hurrah for Council Chambers.”

The mayor noted that in its 50 years the chamber had seen “memorable moments” like the huge crowd when the Esplanade Skate Park Plaza was voted through, the Kings Square plans and Amendment 49 (to allow developers to have high rise in Fremantle).

Ironically, these examples selected by the mayor were three highly controversial decisions of council – the skate park was contrary to council’s own Masterplan for Esplanade Park, upset locals, and should have been built in the car park and not on the green space of the park. The Kings Square Business Plan, like the controversial Markets Lease the mayor supported when he was a councillor, did not go out for public tender,  and there has never been a demand from the community for a new administration building. And, the MAJORITY of the community did NOT support the heights proposed in amendment 49.

The twin towers of good governance – transparency and accountability – have gone down, like the admin building, with the actions of Fremantle Council.

They will not rise again unless the community asks more questions and seeks better quality outcomes.

Warders Cottages

(Councillors meet ahead of their planning meetings and seem to formulate a ‘team’ view then of what outcomes should be for important planning agenda items. They seem to ignore the Fremantle Society view, as being one that is a ‘nuisance’ or ‘irritant’ to them, as though the Fremantle Society view is simply a narrow viewpoint. In formulating views and submissions on this isssue the Fremantle Society has consulted widely and has informed members of key aspects, as it has worked through the issues. We have consulted three staff at the National Trust, several staff at the Heritage Council, a conservation architect, the neighbors to the proposal, a former mayor, a senior retired architect, TV and print journalists, the former Premier of WA, and the Heritage Minister. The community is given very little time to respond to major issues, and to ensure transparency council should give much more notice of key developments).

The Warders Cottages issue is another example of a lack of transparency and accountability. The cottages, of national importance, have been poorly handled from day one, when council voted to support strata titling and privatisation of the cottages, contrary to expert advice and obvious best outcome being ownership remaining with the prison or another body like the National Trust.

At last week’s planning meeting, despite the officers admitting they had never seen the key guiding document for all the cottages – the 2016 Conservation Management Plan, the meeting proceeded, and not one councillor took any notice of the submission of the Fremantle Society. Councillors had no interest in discussing heritage, just how many patrons could fit into the beer garden.

The mayor states in today’s West Australian that tourists will flock to the cottages when the rear gardens have been totally eradicated and the rear aspect of the cottages ruined and obscured by second storey walkways.

It doesnt help that the Heritage Council, the ‘owners’ of the site and the decision makers about it, put a bulldozer through the rear gardens, aware that a proposal was before them for a beer garden.

For over 150 years these inner city cottages had their own inner city sanctum – a private garden, making them rare and highly important. But not one councillor stood up for the gardens. They should be reinstated.

The cottages are magical and have survived in good shape after 167 years. Any development of the site should be highly sensitive in order to keep the authenticity of the cottages and their gardens. THEN tourists will have something to salivate over.

The Fremantle Society and affected neighbours will make submissions on Friday to JDAP. There are six key issues with the current proposal:

a) Failure to address November 2016 Conservation Management Plan: The conservation plan has around 180 clear policies and the properties are sold subject to a Heritage Agreement which binds purchasers to follow the Conservation Plan. Policy 171 for example clearly states that only essential one storey structures can be erected in the historically important rear gardens, but two storeys are proposed.

b) Damage to nationally significant  British military colonial warders usage and garden significance: Based on previous work by the same applicant (Hougoumont Hotel), not enough sensitivity to the enormous heritage of the site will be shown in the works intended. The essence of the Heritage Act, in particular 11(3) states that “A decision making authority shall not take any action that might (whether or not adversely) affect to a significant extent a registered place or a place which is the subject of a Heritage Agreement”, but considerable changes are being sought.

c) Misjudgement of Heritage Council in stating that proposed works are ‘reversible’. The works are clearly designed to be for long term use and are not temporary.

d) Lack of car parking provided: Given that council is rapidly selling off its own car parks there is a need for cash in lieu to be paid if car parking is not to be provided.

e) Failure of Fremantle Council to properly assess proposal: Council’s Design Advisory Committee, which gives adivce on major developments, did not give comment on this proposal. Council’s own staff admitted at the planning meeting they did not know of the existence of a key document: the November 2016 Conservation Management Plan. Councillors did not discuss the heritage of the buildings and the site, but focussed on the size of the beer garden.

f) Adverse effects on residential neighbours of a 475 person capacity beer garden.

The Fremantle Society will request that the application be refused or modified to protect the heritage values of the cottages and their individual gardens.

John Dowson
President
The Fremantle Society
john.dowson@yahoo.com

Warders Cottages/AGM/Kings Square Urban Space

Warders Cottages Disgrace

(Above: important inner city gardens of Warders Cottages now destroyed)

Last night at Fremantle Council’s planning meeting, councillors voted through the proposal for a hotel and bar for up to 500 people in the rear gardens of the Warders Cottages, despite officers admitting they did not know of the existence of the 2016 Conservation Management Plan which clearly states that two storey tavern proposals like the one put forward are not allowed. Only Cr McDonald voted against the proposal.

The Fremantle Society presented relevant excerpts from the conservation plan to all councillors, but no councillor made any reference to the heritage of the cottages (except Cr Lang in a passing reference) in their deliberations, focussing on the alcohol issue and how many patrons could fit in the small space in the rear (former) gardens. And, these cottages are of NATIONAL importance.

The lack of interest in heritage and the gardens and  the lack of due process was astonishing, and a disgrace.

A boutique hotel may well be a good fit for the site, but again councillors were falling over themselves to do favours for a developer, one who already has a 5 storey approval in the West End, where 5 storeys are not allowed, and who has not yet committed to buy the cottages.

The issue will go to JDAP next week.

AGM

Reminder that the AGM is today Thursday 7 December 6.30 at the Fremantle Tennis Club.

Contact: 9335 2113 or 0409 22 36 22. Bring your friends.

Submissions due Thursday 8 December on Kings Square Urban Space

To help you with your submission, conservation architect Dr Bremen has kindly provided the following notes:

Notes on Kings Square: urban play space

Where is the up-to-date conservation plan for Kings Square that sets out what is significant and what should be protected in any changes made to the place? I do not mean the conservation plan for the Town Hall, or the Heritage Impact Statement for the new Council buildings, but a comprehensive conservation assessment and protection of the Square as a whole place, its definitions, its key buildings, its boundaries (streets and surrounding buildings), its landscape features and its open spaces. We all know it has been left out of the West End listing in the Heritage Council assessment, and we know perhaps why, to remove constraints from development in the area including Kings Square.

Such a conservation plan would include consultation with all stakeholders, including primary schoolers, and would lead to policies for change that protect and enhance the cultural values that the place already has, while planning for changes that are seen to be necessary, not just fashionable and suited to a small proportion of the users of the Square. No changes should be made to the Square without first testing them against the requirements for the retention of significance; a section always included in a good conservation plan for that purpose. (See Australia ICOMOS Burra charter, conservation planning processes and JS Kerr The Conservation Plan 2013).

Notes for a draft conservation management plan were prepared for Kings Square by Rob Campbell in 2015 and further developed for the use of students of conservation architecture as part of their course in 2016 and 2017. On the basis of that draft I can offer the following:

1.  The key to the children’s responses appears to be the mature shade trees; I presume they mean the Moreton Bay figs. These are highly significant items in Kings Square, with historic, aesthetic and social value. There are at least three that look sick. I hear that Council has sought advice on their care, and they should be saved. If they cannot be saved, they should be replaced with similar species, but it will take at least 20 years for any replantings of this species to become as large and attractive climbing and shady trees. Surely all efforts should go into the health of these significant trees first, rather than any new play space or elements. Similarly it is important that if they do become more actively used for children’s play, that this is carefully considered by horticulturalists to ensure that the trees are not damaged in the process.

2. Water play is fine in a private secured back yards, but ponds and play spouts in a public area are a known health problem (see Betty’s Jetty experience), not respected by people who do not have children playing in them, and they become filled with debris by accident or on purpose. This is going to happen to the ponds in the new basement library. Any water should be used to keep the trees and lawn alive, not for public playground amusement. Open water bodies are not part of this traditional town square, even though fountains were tried in the 1970s, these were always a problem and were removed. The only water play types that might be suitable would be temporary water points, more like drinking fountains with secure taps. Perhaps a horse trough for multiple users, doubling as a memorial, and removable if it does not work. What about pop-up water plays?

3.  The Square is bounded by four streets and contains two historic structures and six historic Moreton Bay fig trees. It is already full of statues and memorials, which add something to the social value and interpretation of people and place in the Square, perhaps they could become play structures if necessary. There is no room for new play structures.
The only open space left in the Square after the new Council buildings are erected will be in the St John’s Triangle, which is also their churchyard. Any new structures will crowd it still further and may not be appropriate for their uses of their land. I presume they are being consulted on all of this. If they are not comfortable with these developments, in the end, they will move out of the Square and leave the Square and the building for the rest of us to look after, and the significance of the Square will be reduced by the loss of its earliest and longest continuous user. It should be remembered that the church can also redevelop their land if they want to, having been given a marvellous precedent by the Council.

4. Play types that require safety or security fencing are not appropriate in this now confined public space; it further segregates and limits the people who can use the space as well as being visually intrusive. This is the only civic square of its type in WA. It should not be a suburban playground. Fremantle already has transformed the Esplanade Park into a playground. Council’s new design has swallowed up the playground they had in Kings Square, and given it back as a so-called civic lawn. Consider this as a children’s playground, as it has fences on three sides already, and does not look like it will be any good for anything else.

5.  For the conservation of the cultural values of Kings Square, the landscape should be opened up, not closed in. If it must host children’s playtimes, these must be carefully scheduled into the uses of Kings Square with only temporary equipment housed elsewhere when not in use, and with close and organised parental supervision onsite, with their take-a-way coffee in their hands, and not from inside a cafe nearby, and not with fencing or other forms of policing.

Dr Ingrid van Bremen 4/12/17

AGM/Warders Cottages/Local History Library/J Shed

Fremantle Society AGM, with some Art Deco

Come for a Christmas drink at 6.30 next Thursday 6.30pm at the Fremantle Tennis Club for the Fremantle Society AGM. Meet legendary Vyonne Geneve of the Art Deco Society.

Buy a copy of Vyonne’s Picture Palaces of the Golden West for $59.95 and receive a FREE copy of Fighting for Fremantle (the history of the Fremantle Society worth $35). Proceeds to the Fremantle Society and the National Trust.

Members – Please pay your membership NOW or at the AGM. We have asked three times already. We don’t have rows of volunteers manning desks and telephones to keep reminding people about the membership fees.

Our fees are too low and are not enough to cover the work we do commissioning expert reports and giving you glasses of wine.

Please consider a donation to help fund the work we do.

Local History Library Staff Cut

The Fremantle Society can reveal that Fremantle Council intend to cut the Local History staff in half.

Fremantle’s Local History Library, the best in the state, has been untouchable as the best local history department in the state, and untouchable as an important osurce of information for staff, councillors, developers, and the community. No mayor in history has dared allow the local history library to be pruned or nobbled.

The move of staff out of the administration building while it is demolished and replaced by an utterly unnecessary new $50 million new one, will allow for changes to be made to the number and composition of staff, to suit the ideology of the current council.

It is hoped members will support the Fremantle Sociey in its push for the Local History Centre to retain its two full time staff.

Next Wednesday Council Planning Agenda

Warders’ Cottages:  Wednesday 6 December 6pm Fremantle Council planning committee will deal with the boutique hotel proposal and tavern for 475 people proposed for the 6 warders cottages in Henderson Street bought by the same people who run the Hougoumont Hotel, which extraordinarily sought and won permission for 5 storeys in the West End precinct where only 3 (plus possibly one extra storey set back) are allowed.

The proposal for 475 bar patrons seeks the building of two storey structures in the rear of the gardens CONTRARY TO THE CONSERVATION PLAN WHICH ONLY ALLOWS ESSENTIAL SINGLE STOREY WORKS. The plans have been ticked off by the Heritage Council, which is nothing more than a developers’ club nowadays. That is no reason for Fremantle Council to also ignore the sensitivity and importance of the rear gardens and the conservation plan.

The officers’ report fails to provide a heritage impact statement and assessment, and nowhere is there reference to the fact that the cottages, being of national importance, being nationally listed, and in the buffer zone of the World Heritage prison, need Federal approval.

This was the Fremantle Society submission, which is ignored in the officer’ report:

The Warders Cottages are convict built, rare, and of national importance. They are the only buildings in WA (outside the prison) that are significant enough to be on the Federal Government heritage list.

 Unfortunately the main focus for this development is alcohol (475 patrons). As one conservation architect said: “Imagine Tasmania proposing hotels for the Port Arthur convict site?” The same architect wrote: “The real test should be a carefully researched and considered assessment based on the cultural values of the Convict Establishment as a place, the cottages as significant fabric in their own right, and the townscape qualities of that part of Fremantle.”
 
The proponent, who somehow was granted a 5 storey approval for the next stage of the Hougoumont Hotel in the West End, where only 4 storeys are permissible, will only buy these cottages if he gets the approvals he wants, so he can easily walk away if there is a refusal.
 
Just next door, the six Warders Cottages with verandahs have already been sold to private owners. Council policy on venues serving alcohol (DBU6)  ‘does not support proposals which may encourage conflict betwen land uses’.

The boutique hotel proposal for the cottages has merit, because the cottages were residences for 150 years, and giving people access to such authentic places is laudable. But the plans show entry to the second floor via a second storey walkway. Yet the conservation plan (policy 171) clearly states that only: ‘small single storey structures may be acceptable in the rear  yards if they are required for the amenity and practical functioning of the cottages.’ 
 
The rear gardens of all the Warders’ Cottages are an important part of their significance and magic, despite the brutal clearing of vegetation by the Heritage Council.

 Fremantle Society Submission Comments:

SIGNIFICANCE: The Warders Cottages are the only buildings in Western Australia on the Federal Government heritage list besides the adjacent Fremantle Prison and are thus of supreme importance as rare convict built terrace houses over 150 years old. Council should ensure that the highest standards are applied to this application.
  
 IMPACT OF PROPOSAL: The idea of a boutique hotel development for these cottages has merit as one way of maintaining their residential use. The cottages have over 150 years of use as private dwellings with their own private backyards, and a major part of the heritage significance of the place lies in the cottages with their conjoined backyards. The question is, how much impact does the current development proposal have on that heritage which was earned over a very long time?
  
The impact of an 11 room boutique hotel on the fabric of the main building is sensitively managed in many respects, and it is heartening to see the trees retained, though the apparent inability to use the existing staircases because of code compliance issues necessitates a rather clumsy and intrusive upper floor entry. Sightlines to and from the rear of these significant cottages are thus negatively affected.

FOCUS ON ALCOHOL: The applicant is seeking to do much more than just run a small boutique hotel – there is provision for serving alcohol to 475 people. This appears to be an overintensification of the site, however well managed. New owners of adjacent residential warders’ cottages are understandably concerned, and they have every right under current liquor laws to have their amenity and privacy protected.
  
The size of the proposal leads to a parking shortfall of over 122 car bays and 20 bicycle bays. The applicant argues that the temporary lift on requirement for cash in lieu to be paid in case of a parking shortfall was suspended until September 2014 and that technically it is still suspended and should stay that way because of all the nearby council controlled car parks. But, in recent years council has sold a significant number of its car parks and some have disappeared altogether. Also, a number of recent major development applications are, like this application, focussing on liquor sales, and it appears that Fremantle is heading down the path of becoming less of a place to live, work, and recreate, and more of a “Northbridge by the Sea.”
  
RECOMMENDATIONS: The Fremantle Society believes:
  
 a) the intensity of this proposal in terms of patron numbers if excessive and should be scaled back.
  
 b) this intensity adds too many new physical elements to this significant site and they should be scaled back. 
  
 c) Council should consider reintroducing cash in lieu payments in order to facilitate provision of parking nearby.
  
 d) The applicant’s plans show 5 car bays in Henderson Street earmarked for the hotel. If council is going to hand those car bays over to the hotel, a fee, the equivalent of lost parking revenue, should be charged.
  
 e) The applicant’s report acknowledges the hugely significant vistas in adjacent streets, and thus in William Street, the totally incongruous hotel awning proposed that juts out into William Street should be deleted.
 
 f) The proposed new blank wall facing William Street should be reduced in impact.
  
 g) The proposed art works for the 1% for art scheme are for a light show highlighting the building. While this sounds like an advertising campaign to promote the hotel, it has merit compared with the dismal outcomes at other new development sites around Fremantle under the same scheme.
  
 h) The important original lettering on this building carved into the facade (VR) is bisected by the installation of a downpipe, and this issue should be addressed.
 
 i)  Any aerials, lift overruns, or plant installation should be strictly conditioned to be not visible from surrounding streets.

J Shed

The controversial liquor outlet at J shed for up to 400 patrons is on the agenda again for Wednesday, with a recommendation for refusal. The applicant’s submission for this liquor application begins  with a laughable graphic showing 14 people enjoying the site without a glass of liquid visible, though there is a single bottle sitting on one table. There are also some children playing with an environmentally unacceptable plastic balloon in this marine related area.

The Fremantle Society Submission on Manning Buildings 135 High Street

(Members who want a full copy of the report with illustrations and maps can send $12 to The Fremantle Society PO Box 828 Fremantle 6160. The $12 covers the printing, binding, and postage  of the report. Alternatively, contact President John Dowson at john.dowson@yahoo.com for a colour pdf by email free of charge) .

Executive Summary

The proposal for the Mannings Buildings at 135 High Street in the Mall seeks partial demolition of the Mannings Buildings, the separation of first and second floors, which have been united for over 100 years, the removal of all existing staircases, works to shopfronts and awnings, removal of various existing walls, and provision of a 1500 sqm brewery.

This is a once in a generation opportunity to revitalise a critically important central city building and in particular to make better use of the underutilised upper storey. This opportunity to get an excellent outcome must not be missed.

Unfortunately, the proposal is brutal in its treatment of heritage elements such as the rear structures, dismissive of the social history of shops like Norm Wrightsons’ Hairdresser, whose business has existed in the same shop since 1933, silent on the 1995 council recommended reinstatement of original verandahs, and does not seek to restore and reuse the former existing Majestic Theatre still in existence there.

This is a major development of a level 1b building, designated as being of ‘exceptional significance’ to the city.  Under council’s town planning scheme, nothing of heritage significance can be allowed to be demolished. A very detailed and careful assessment of this proposal is essential to prevent any loss of original heritage fabric.

The Fremantle Society believes this project should deliver a carefully refurbished heritage building where internal and external heritage elements are respected and kept, where the original verandahs and shopfronts are reinstated, and where important social history like Norm Wrightson’s is celebrated and encouraged to continue in its current location.

The Manning Buildings

Designed by renowned architects Cavanagh and Cavanagh in 1902 in Federation Free Classical style, the collective group of buildings make a bold, confident, and significant contribution to the streetscape. The three shops in William Street (7, 9, and 11) were constructed earlier and had a two storeyed open verandah, rare in Fremantle (see next page). The Majestic Theatre was not opened until 1916 and closed in 1938, becoming the location of the first Coles to operate outside the Perth CBD,  The buildings have housed many and varied tenants over the years, including the famous photographers Izzy Orloff and Charles Nixon.

It is unfortunate that the original verandahs were removed in the 1950s as with many Fremantle properties and that the original shopfronts in most cases have been unattractively altered.

However, the building is listed as being overall of ‘exceptional significance’ to Fremantle and there are many individual original elements remaining on the facade, at the rear, and inside some of the shops.

Comments

Introduction:

Given the recent highly controversial Atwell Arcade development by the same developer (Silverleaf’s Gerard O’Brien) just 10 metres from this proposal, extreme caution and care should be taken with this development to ensure that mistakes made there are not repeated here.

One Fremantle architect described the completed Atwell Project as ‘such a tragedy’ with ‘a gigantic loss of original fabric’. The damage to the world famous gold rush roofscapes of Fremantle with the new glass office block, the alterations to the arcade, the lack of restoration of verandahs and shopfronts,  the failure to complete the building as approved, and the failure to complete restoration as promised, are clear warnings.

1) Restoration of verandahs

The developer is not proposing to restore the verandahs of the shops, as he should, yet council spent several years between 1994 and 1999 discussing the issue, and paying for plans to be drawn up with all the detail necessary to encourage the Manning Estate. The detailed plans and files are in the council archives.

As one architect stated: ‘The Mannings Buildings are naked without their verandahs and awnings.’ In particular, the double storeyed verandah originally on 7-9 William Street as shown below, should be reinstated.

2) Norm Wightson’s – Important Social History

Plans submitted show the relocation of this business to Market Street, and the demolition of much of the shop, to facilitate a brewery.

The tenant does not want to relocate. There is enormous social history with this business having being been there since 1933. Only Warren’s Menswear is an older business (1931) in the Manning Buildings, but they are not been asked to relocate and their shop is not being demolished.

The developer wishes to make this shop, which is directly opposite the entrance to the town hall, the entry to his brewery.  Such proximity to the town’s most important civic building is an inappropriate location for such a business. The shop should stay.

The social history of the various shops in the Manning Buildings is highly significant and should form part of the assessment to ensure that any relevant significant fabric is preserved and the story of those businesses told. Such story telling would add significantly to the marketing advantage of the refurbished premises. For example, Swansea Cycles and Motor Co factory was originally at 9 William Street adjacent to Norm Wrightson’s and significant original fabric may still exist at the rear (see image below). Given the current interest in cycling, this heritage is relevant today.

As the WA Historical Cycle Club notes: They started business at 9 William Street, Fremantle, with a small annex at the rear of the shop where they began making their own bicycles using components imported from England

In the first year of trading Swansea made and sold all of 70 cycles. The great Wall Street crash of 1929, followed by the disastrous Depression years actually helped Swansea Cycles, as many people found bikes a great means ofcheap transport that was healthy as well By 1939 Swansea Cycles had expanded to larger factory premises in Newman Street Fremantle, with 5000 square feet of floor space, a staff of 33, and a turnover of more than 1500 cycles a year, as well as trotting spiders and children’s tricycles. There were also branches at Barrack Street, Perth and in Kalgoorlie and Bunbury, with agents throughout the state. 1939 saw the introduction of the top end 4 and 5 Swan models.

3) Facade Works and Shopfronts

a)  Shopfronts: Most of the existing shopfronts have been altered and do not match the significant heritage values of the rest of the building above. This is a once in a generation opportunity to create a high quality shopping environment that will be an attractor for the businesses with distinctive high quality shop fronts which match the heritage values above by recreating the original shopfront configurations.
Some shops currently have roller shutters, which should not be permitted because of the detrimental effect on both the building and the street scene.

In terms of security it should be remembered that smaller paned glass, transoms, mullions and stallrisers are more difficult to break into than large areas of glazing as recently installed by this developer nearby at the Atwell Arcade buildings. They are also cheaper to repair.

b) Cinema Facade: The developer proposes to ‘tuck paint’ the former cinema’s facade  on High Street. The paint should be stripped and a proper tuck pointing restoration carried out.

c)  Electronic Security: all security systems should form an integral part of the design and be located unobtrusively in order not to interfere with any architectural detail.

d) Lighting: Internally illuminated letters or fascias can conflict with the design of historic shopfronts, are
incongruous in heritage areas and must be resisted by council. Full details of the fitting, method of fixing and
luminance should be provided by the applicant. Moving signage, as currently existing on one Manning Building shop (tobacco shop) is not allowed under council bylaws.

e) Materials: Traditional materials should be used. Timber is appropriate as is wrought and cast iron.

f) Corporate colours and styles: Corporate housestyles can seek to have shopfronts and advertisements inappropriate for historic buildings, and may have to be adapted to fit in with the age and character of the building.

g) Original detail: Where possible, original detail should be preserved. The photos below show how the original pediments on the left of the Manning Buildings have been covered over and need to be revealed again.

4) Significant Value of the rear of Mannings Buildings

The developer proposes drastic changes to the rear of the shops, including demolition of significant heritage fabric.

The rear elements of heritage buildings are undervalued, but often have highly significant heritage values with useable and interesting spaces.

Melbourne is world famous through its laneway projects and the rear of the Manning Buildings provide an unusually open and accessible urban space that should be utilised and appreciated, while preserving significant heritage features. Paddy Troy mall is in effect a public street and the streetscape values of this area, especially being unusually so open for an inner city location, should be respected, enhanced, and should form an integral part of any proposed development. In particular, significant heritage features should not be obscured by new works.

This is a rare opportunity to create a unique and authentic inner city urban space that would be of great interest, and a high value commercial attractor.

John Dowson
President
The Fremantle Society
28 November 2017

Booze, High Rise, AGM, Tsunami and More

Fremantle’s Scale Ruined Forever

The building above is in St Georges Terrace Perth. It is LOWER in height than the Coles Woolstore Gerard O’Brien Silverleaf development proposal currently out for comment.

The 38.9 metre high (plus 3 metres lift overrun) Coles proposal is 50% higher than the 10 storey Johnston Court and will destroy forever the scale of Fremantle.

The Fremantle Society can reveal that the council’s Design Advisory Committee have NOT signed off on this proposal which will appear before Council on Wednesday 13 December before going to JDAP. They have NOT agreed yet that this design meets the criteria for EXCEPTIONAL design which is required if the developer is to get the extra height up to 38.9 metres that he is seeking. The DAC is required under local planning policy 1.9 to:

have due regard to the following principles to assist in determining the design quality of the development:

1. Character – a place with its own identity

Successful places are distinctive and memorable, with a character that people can appreciate easily. The positive attributes of a place and its people contribute to its special character and sense of identity. They include landscape, building traditions and materials, patterns of local life, and other factors that make one place different from another.

When new development creates public spaces identical to those in every other town, a place risks weakening its connection with its history and losing the things that make it stand out when competing for investment and skilled people.

Objectives:

(i) New development should integrate into its landscape / townscape setting and reinforce local distinctiveness.

(ii) New development should respond positively to the existing layout of buildings, streets and spaces ensuring that adjacent buildings relate to one another, that streets are connected and that spaces complement one another.

(iii) New development should respond positively to local building forms and patterns of development in their detailed layout and design.

(iv) Building materials, construction techniques and details should enhance local distinctiveness.

(v) The scale, massing and height of new development should respond positively to that of the adjoining buildings, the topography, the general pattern of heights, and the views, vistas and landmarks of the place, reinforcing a coherent local identity.

(vi) In designated areas new development should promote the re-establishment of local distinctiveness that builds on the past and reinvigorates locally distinctive patterns of development, landscape and culture to provide the area with a ‘sense of place’.

The Fremantle Society has commissioned experts to help with the writing of submissions. We ask that members submit comments however brief by 22 November to:

planning@fremantle.wa.gov.au
members@fremantle.wa.gov.au

There is no doubt that this massive proposal which promises a hotel, student accommodation, a new Coles, tavern, and offices will appear to councillors like a giant Christmas present, and some will be falling over themselves to say, like Atwell Arcade, ‘we have to have it all, and we have to have it now.’ The mayor will probably argue that the views into Thomson Bay, Rottnest from the top will be so fantastic, that the building thus meets the ‘exceptional’ criteria for extra height.

It is wonderful that developers want to spend money in Fremantle, and we do need good hotels and student accommodation, but developers need to follow the rules.

To guide your submission, we suggest you insist on the policy above being adhered to. The key issue is: Is the proposal ‘exceptional’ in order to get this extraordinary height? Exceptional by definition means something very very special and rare. Does this proposal meet that criteria? What makes it better than the vast majority of other buildings, which are not ‘exceptional’? Given that people can often be judged by what they have already done, consider the Atwell Arcade development, where council is still trying to get this developer to finish the damaging project as promised, and to complete restoration works as detailed.

Initial advice from our expert is that the design is in no way ‘exceptional’ He states that context is key and any new building on this site should take its cues from adjoining buildings – in the case of the northern end of the site the Marilyn New woolstores (21 metres) and at the other end the 4 storey bank on the corner of Queen and Cantonment Streets (18 metres).

Northbridge by the Sea

In an excellent letter to the Fremantle Herald a few weeks ago, member Professor David Hawkes discussed the issue Who is Fremantle for? David sided with the residents (David’s letter is printed in full at the end of today’s epistolary).

But, it appears that council has other ideas. Judged by the tsunami of major developments heavily featuring alcohol, Fremantle appears to be heading in the direction, as Professor Hawks stated recently, of becoming Northbridge by the Sea. Some recent development applications focussing on alcohol:

Warders Cottages: Boutique hotel of 11 rooms, but alcohol for 475.

Police Station Complex: Tavern

Mannings Buildings: Brewery

Coles Woolstore: Tavern

Quarry Street next to oval: Tavern

We Need You, and Your Money

The AGM is on Thursday December 7 at 6.30 at Fremantlle Tennis Club.

Vyonne Geneve (Art Deco Society) will gve a brief talk about her book Picture Palaces of the West which will be for sale on the night along with cards and prints.

Those who buy a copy of Picture Palaces of the West will receive a FREE copy of the history of the Fremantle Society Fighting for Fremantle worth $35.

Also for sale on the night and just in time for Christmas will be some stunning Michal Lewi mounted photographs of Fremantle for the ridiculously low price of $10 each, or $20 if you are feeling wealthy.

We ask members to pay their subscriptions now if possible.

Please consider a donation. Having a lot of people on a concession membership of $15 does not help us pay for the architects and planners we need to employ to help write submissions.

Nomination Deadline: 22 November

22 November is the deadline for applications for the Fremantle Society executive. Please consider putting your name forward. Contact 9335 2113 if you need further information.

Warders’ Cottages 17-29 Henderson Street

The Fremantle Society has made the following submission to council for the proposal of boutique hotel and bar for 475 people, which goes to council on December 13:

Comments:

SIGNIFICANCE: The Warders Cottages are the only buildings in Western Australia on the Federal Government heritage list besides the adjacent Fremantle Prison and are thus of supreme importance as rare convict built terrace houses over 150 years old. Council should ensure that the highest standards are applied to this application.

IMPACT OF PROPOSAL: The idea of a boutique hotel development for these cottages has merit as one way of maintaining their residential use. The cottages have over 150 years of use as private dwellings with their own private backyards, and a major part of the heritage significance of the place lies in the cottages with their conjoined backyards. The question is, how much impact does the current development proposal have on that heritage which was earned over a very long time?

The impact of an 11 room boutique hotel on the fabric of the main building is sensitively managed in many respects, and it is heartening to see the trees retained, though the apparent inability to use the existing staircases because of code compliance issues necessitates a rather clumsy and intrusive upper floor entry. Sightlines to and from the rear of these significant cottages are thus negatively affected.

FOCUS ON ALCOHOL: The applicant is seeking to do much more than just run a small boutique hotel – there is provision for serving alcohol to 475 people. This appears to be an overintensification of the site, however well managed. New owners of adjacent residential warders’ cottages are understandably concerned, and they have every right under current liquor laws to have their amenity and privacy protected.

The size of the proposal leads to a parking shortfall of over 122 car bays and 20 bicycle bays. The applicant argues that the temporary lift on requirement for cash in lieu to be paid in case of a parking shortfall was suspended until September 2014 and that technically it is still suspended and should stay that way because of all the nearby council controlled car parks. But, in recent years council has sold a significant number of its car parks and some have disappeared altogether. Also, a number of recent major development applications are, like this application, focussing on liquor sales, and it appears that Fremantle is heading down the path of becoming less of a place to live, work, and recreate, and more of a “Northbridge by the Sea.”

RECOMMENDATIONS: The Fremantle Society believes:

a) the intensity of this proposal in terms of patron numbers if excessive and should be scaled back.

b) this intensity adds too many new physical elements to this significant site and they should be scaled back.

c) Council should consider reintroducing cash in lieu payments in order to facilitate provision of parking nearby.

d) The applicant’s plans show 5 car bays in Henderson Street earmarked for the hotel. If council is going to hand those car bays over to the hotel, a fee, the equivalent of lost parking revenue, should be charged.

e) The applicant’s report acknowledges the hugely significant vistas in adjacent streets, and thus in William Street, the totally incongruous hotel awning proposed that juts out into William Street should be deleted.

f) The proposed new blank wall facing William Street should be reduced in impact.

g) The proposed art works for the 1% for art scheme are for a light show highlighting the building. While this sounds like an advertising campaign to promote the hotel, it has merit compared with the dismal outcomes at other new development sites around Fremantle under the same scheme.

h) The important original lettering on this building carved into the facade (VR) is bisected by the installation of a downpipe, and this issue should be addressed.

i) Any aerials, lift overruns, or plant installation should be strictly conditioned to be not visible from surrounding streets.

j) If archaeological studies have not been carried out, they should be.

The Fremantle Society has received the following letter on this proposal from a conservation architect:

The State Heritage Office and Heritage Council member Brad Pettitt will probably commission a Heritage Impact Statement which will say that the change of use and new developments will not affect the significance of the buildings or the site as a whole, as they have done for the proposals for Kings Square and for J Shed at Arthur Head.

The real test should be a carefully researched and considered assessment based on the cultural values of the Convict Establishment as a place, the cottages as significant fabric in their own right, and the townscape qualities of that part of Fremantle. This should include a discussion of the Burra Charter idea of compatible use. “Compatible use means a use which respects the cultural significance of a place. Such a use involves no, or minimal, impact on cultural significance”. And “setting” which is defined as “the immediate and extended environment of a place that is part of or contributes to its cultural significance and distinctive character”. This will only be possible if there is a good assessment of significance for the cottages in the conservation plan. It is usual to update a conservation plan for a place at regular intervals and whenever important changes that may affect its cultural value are being made.

I note that the HIS in the Proposal papers reports a conservation management plan for the cottages dated 2016. I have not seen this document, and it is interesting to note that the HIS does not use the statement of significance in this document to make its assessment, but rather refers to the National Heritage assessment of value for the prison site as a whole. This is not enough to use in assessing the affect of the proposal on the cultural values of the cottages in their own right.

We were still angry about the poor quality repair work carried out on them which continues to degrade, and the VR is still covered by a downpipe.

Letter to Herald from Professor David Hawkes:

When seeking re-election Brad Pettitt promoted himself as wanting to make Fremantle more livable. The question remains however for whom is it be made more livable? Too often we are left with the impression that the City’s livability is to be measured in terms of the financial health of its retailers, some of whom, but not all of whom, live in Fremantle. Others see Fremantle merely as a retail opportunity.

Self evidently, retailers benefit from more people buying things, so maintaining their viability frequently
translates into there being a need to attract more visitors, to which the City responds by offering more events calculated to bring those visitors into the City.

The question is however whether this makes the City more livable. Retailers are often their own worst enemy, offering essentially the same goods on opposite sides of the street, and expressing surprise when one or more of them goes bust; while events sometimes corral parts of the City, confining them to those who have paid for entrance to what was previously public space.

What the City needs to be more liveable is a greater diversity of retailers not a redundancy of coffee and cake cafes and fast food outlets: a diversity which services those of us who live here, pay its rates, its parking permits and sometimes its parking fines. While a City as attractive as Fremantle is always going to have visitors, and many of us will have been visitors to other cities, a balance needs to be struck which favours and acknowledges the priority of those who live here. A City becomes less liveable not more so as it increases its number of visitors, as residents of other even more renowned cities have come to realize.

The City does not belong to its retailers: it belongs to those of us who have chosen to live here, which of course includes some retailers. It belongs to us in the sense that we have acquired a familiarity with it, are recognized as we move around it, have ready access to its officers and are respected by them as their employers. It is reflected in our willingness to provide services for those less fortunate than ourselves and our responsiveness to the City’s requests for advice in relation to its many submissions and in the many other intangible ways which have contributed to our desire to live here.
Visitors, and their presumed appetite for retail, are not the reason for our choosing to live in Fremantle, nor do they, except in a transient way, define its ambience.

John Dowson
President
The Fremantle Society

Another Tsunami

The elections are over. Developers are rushing into council to lodge their plans. Some of the plans are distressingly crass and damaging to the heritage values of the town. A significant focus of the plans appears to be: more alcohol.

Members are asked to take note of the following, and to be involved in putting their opinions forward. The Fremantle Society is in the process of writing submissions.

Comments:

TO PLANNING DEPARTMENT: planning@fremantle.wa.gov.au

TO MAYOR AND COUNCILLORS: members@fremantle.wa.gov.au

TO LOCAL MEDIA: news@fremantleherald.com

TO FREMANTLE SOCIETY: john.dowson@yahoo.com

1) Warders’ Cottages 19-29 Henderson Street

11 room hotel and bar

COMMENTS CLOSE 14 NOVEMBER

The developer and architect of the Hougoumont Hotel in Bannister Street has submitted this application. While the Hougoumont gets great reviews, it is a very modern experience more akin to staying in a shipping container than a heritage building. It has been granted approval for 5 storeys for its next stage, possibly a technically illegal approval given the rules for the West End.

If members examine the plans submitted for these terrace cottages, which are of national significance and the ONLY properties in the whole of Western Australia outside the prison to be on the Federal Heritage list, they may find the plans swamping the original cottages and their backyards with the added infrastructure. A huge focus is alcohol – it’s an 11 room boutique hotel catering for up to 475 drinkers. No wonder there have been 15 submissions already from concerned residents who have just bought next door in the other 6 Henderson Street cottages, and others.

2) MHI Review

You are asked to comment on a review of the Municipal Heritage Inventory. See document online.

COMMENTS CLOSE 17 NOVEMBER

3) Mannings Buildings

The Fremantle Society broke the story that Gerard O’Brien of Silverleaf was going to buy all 26 shops in the Manning Estate that wraps around from William Street, through the mall and into Market Street. He has now submitted plans to ‘revitalise’ them by turning them into: a brewery. He also wants to ‘modernise’ and open up the interiors and thus remove a reason people like coming to Fremantle – it has small individual shops with character.

10 metres away across the Mall lies the Atwell Arcade project done by Gerard O’Brien of Silverleaf. The mayor granted him a special council meeting for this development on the basis that a) a new national chain would be brought to Fremantle (it wasn’t) b) 300 new workers would be brought to Fremantle (they weren’t) and c) the building and shopfronts would be restored (they haven’t been).

There will be a public information session on November 16 at 5.30pm at Council.

COMMENTS CLOSE 28 NOVEMBER

4) King’s Square Public Space Draft Concept Design

The Fremantle Society position is that King’s Square is important as the only town square in Western Australia and that it should be a dignified open civic space, not a cluttered entertainment zone.

COMMENTS CLOSE 8 DECEMBER

5) Woolstores Shopping Centre and Car Park

Gerard O’Brien of Silverleaf has submitted plans so awful that even a council employee told the Fremantle Society “For the first time I will be making a submission.”

The proposed high rise soars 50% higher than the 10 storeyed Johnston Court, whose height in the middle of town we were promised would never be repeated. To achieve this height the design MUST show ‘exceptional quality’. Council will say that the determining authority is JDAP (Joint Development Assessment Panels) but the reality is that what council writes and thinks is crucial to getting a good outcome. When the initial plans for a new Queensgate also had to pass the test of demonstrating ‘exceptional quality’, the mayor argued that the view from the top would be so good that he would be voting that that was enough to demonstrate the requirement. Hopefully, council will debate this one a bit harder that that.

COMMENTS CLOSE 22 NOVEMBER

6) Court House and Warders Cottages 31-45 Henderson Street (see photo above)

Gerard O’Brien of Silverleaf has submitted plans for a 6 storey hotel and bars in one of the most significant heritage precincts in Western Australia. which covers the 7,700 sq m court house and police station complex and the adjacent warders’ cottages (the latter bought for the bargain price of $1.7 million).

The Fremantle Society will study the plans, which seem at first glance to be remarkably insensitive to what is a dignified and important set of colonial buildings, some (the terrace houses) being of national significance.

These buildings are in the buffer zone of the World Heritage Listed Fremantle Prison for good reason, and any development in the buffer zone must not impact negatively on the setting of the prison.

Public information session 30 November 5.30pm at Fremantle Council.

COMMENTS CLOSE 11 DECEMBER

Notre Dame Breaches its Own MOU

Notre Dame announced today it has purchased the massive Customs Buildings fronting Henry, Phillimore, and Pakenham Streets.

This is in direct breach of the 2012 MOU it has with Fremantle Council, where the MOU states that the university, having created a monoculture with its hugely successful business controlling 46 buildings in the West End, would in future build outside the West End:

“The City encourages UNDA to expand its academic activities to locations throughout the CBD and expresses the wish that any expansion should not be immediately adjacent to the area bounded by Little High Street, Phillimore Street, Henry Street, Marine Terrace.”

John Dowson
President
The Fremantle Society

Houses built by convicts go up for sale

The sale of 15 restored Fremantle cottages could soon provide a financial lifeline to other deteriorating government-owned heritage buildings. The WA Government spent $3.3 million to restore the 160-year-old convict-built warders’ cottages and will now sell them. While no price tags have been placed on the cottages, the City of Fremantle, which is looking to buy at least one, has budgeted $800,000.

Doreen Taylor, son Ken Taylor and daughter Sue Radford lived in this cottage. Pictures: Ian Munro/The West Australian

If this is an accurate reflection of the value of each cottage, the total sale price could exceed $10 million. In accordance with the original funding arrangements, the proceeds will go towards the restoration of other WA buildings. “There are a couple of projects we are looking at that will be the next to be funded,” Heritage Minister Albert Jacob said.

The cottages, in Henderson Street, were built from 1851 to house the families of Fremantle Prison warders.

Doreen Taylor, 91, raised a family of seven in one of the two-storey cottages in the 1960s. In those days, her four daughters slept in one room and the toilet was at the bottom of the garden.

cottages-2

A main bedroom

“It’s changed a lot,” she said yesterday. “The walls are in the same place but I hardly recognised the rooms. We had nine people living here … it didn’t seem as small as it does today. And we always had lots of friends pop by. Bon Scott (the AC/DC legend) was a regular visitor because he had an eye for one of my daughter’s friends.”

As part of the restoration work, paint was removed from the cottages’ external limestone walls. The structural integrity of the cottages was restored through the overhaul of drainage and replacement of important joinery and door and window frames.

cottages-3

A downstairs living room

Mr Jacob said the cottages could be used for a variety of purposes, as long as heritage values were respected. “Clearly, they are suitable to be returned to residential use,” he said. “But they can also be sensitively adapted into offices or small commercial premises.”

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said the council was keen to buy at least one cottage to give the public access to an important piece of the city’s heritage.

(An example of heritage restoration paying off !)