President’s Report

The Fremantle Society has serious concerns about the future of Arthur Head and devoted much of its AGM last week to the subject. Despite the photo below it has not quite yet collapsed.

President’s Report 10 Dec 2019 AGM Kidogo by John Dowson


2019 has seen a united committee, with Secretary Chris Williams, a lawyer in High Street, Treasurer Adele Carles, the former MP for Fremantle who is invaluable with her background, Jack Turnbull, not officially on the committee but who helps with the finances, Mike Finn, a businessman in Market Street with the famous Kakulas shops, Robert Bodkin, another businessman, at Bodkin’s Bootery in High Street, Peter Scott, who is also precinct convenor for Arts Precinct, Ian Molyneux , the inaugural chairman of the Heritage Council, but who has been very ill this year, and Agnieshka Kiera, who, as Fremantle Council’s heritage architect for 25 years, was and is a superb advocate for heritage – though unfortunately now relocating to Sydney. Jeremy Bean was elected but withdrew during the year. I thank all these wonderful people for the time and effort they have given to improve Fremantle. As we approach our 50thanniversary in 2022, we need even more helpers!


A chronology for the past year shows:

December 2018: At a meeting with the Fremantle Society, former Premier Colin Barnett tells the Fremantle Society: “If I was still Premier, I would put Fremantle Council into administration.” The Fremantle Society is not alone in its concerns about the local council.

Royal George Hotel and George Street Precinct: The Fremantle Society worked closely with the pro-heritage East Fremantle council to ensure sensitive development of the Royal George Hotel and the reinstatement of the missing George Street Heritage Precinct.

Felice Varini Yellow Lines Fiasco: Ratepayers have had to foot the bill for over $200,000 worth of repairs to buildings in High Street because Fremantle Council left the paint on the buildings. The Fremantle Society lobbied for better outcomes for the repaired buildings.

January 2019:   Campaign to save King’s Square. Despite the backing of experts and two former Premiers, the Fremantle Society was unable  to convince council to save $45 million and keep King’s Square as the only true town square in Western Australia.

February 2019:  The sale of the Spicer Site in Henderson Street by Sirona is investigated and it is discovered Sirona made $1 million profit from onselling this ratepayer asset.

Rubbish Fraud:  Fremantle Society drew attention to the 2% rates levy for an extra rubbish bin, when many people will not get the bin, much waste is going to landfill, and the 2% rate increase means that that amount is paid every single year, instead of as a once off.

May 2019:   Aboriginal Centre: The Fremantle Society continued to lobby for the maintenance of Arthur Head, and wrote to the mayor and councillors concerning the wasteful $50,000 being spent on a report about a $50 million Aboriginal centre at Arthur Head they will never get funding for, and didn’t receive a single reply.

June 2019:  The Fremantle Society campaigned on the issue of the alleged mistreatment of stallholders at the Fremantle Markets, the missing millions of $$ that should be going to ratepayers, and the lack of restoration of the Markets. Council dismissed all concerns.

July 2019:   The Fremantle Society worked with the Guildford Society who helped achieve the heritage listing for the whole of Guildford, vindicating the Fremantle Society position that more of Fremantle’s historic town should have been heritage listed.

Fishing Boat Harbour:   The Fremantle Society attended a workshop on a proposal to develop the boat lifters’ site, which months later has morphed into a high rise apartment proposal.

September 2019:   The Fremantle Society campaigned against the development by Yolk Property, who bought the Josephson Street ratepayer asset car park for $1.15m against a valuation of $1.42 and are given permission to build an apartment block on the corner of Josephson and High Street 5.4 m higher than the allowable maximum height.

October 2019:  President John Dowson ran for City Ward in the local elections and narrowly missed out beating the Green’s incumbent Rachel Pemberton. Top election issues included the state of council finances, poor quality development, failure to curb anti-social behaviour, parking woes, and the proposed sale of the Leisure Centre Car park. Following the election the council implemented John Dowson’s idea for two hour free parking.

Former president Ralph Hoare wrote, in agreement with Fremantle Society concerns about the nearby town centre now, that this has been: “A very clear but sad period of development that in ten years has destroyed the essence of Fremantle that was renowned for its clear expression of its heritage past; and now this has now been tipped upside down under the current Mayor’s reign.”

November 2019:   Arthur Head is in such a poor state due to council’s neglect and damage that they have asked the Fremantle Society for help in raising the millions of $$ needed. The Fremantle Society put forward the outline for a positive vision, but weeks later we have heard nothing and have not been provided with the documents we were promised.

More Submissions: Another made on the latest bizarre iteration of Cole’s Woolstores .

Fremantle Society Submission on Woolstores Based on Wide Ranging Discussions

Fremantle Society Submission on Woolstores Shopping Centre and Car Park Proposal, 28 Cantonment Street Fremantle DAP003/19, December 5, 2019.

Introduction: The Fremantle Society is keen to see new developments in Fremantle which add to the quality of the town and fit in. Unfortunately, the majority of recent development proposals have been insensitive and of low quality.

The site in question is a highly significant one opposite the well restored single storeyed railway station, and enroute along Queen Street to the newly developed King’s Triangle area.

The site was, until inexplicable council permission to demolish it was granted in the 1980s, the site of the biggest and best woolstore in Fremantle. That history, the size of the site, and the surrounding context, should inform the thinking for a replacement building.

Site Context: The site is a large one in a key central area and needs a coordinated development plan, particularly along Queen Street, where the alignment of the road needs to be addressed as part of any development for this site.

Assessment of Proposal:

1. Comprehensive Proposal Needed: A comprehensive redevelopment of the Woolstores Centre site would be extremely welcome as an important contribution to the future of Fremantle. However this is not a comprehensive development, but an ad hoc, piecemeal and speculative one with far too little detail, especially as it is not known if and when a future police building will be funded within Fremantle.

2. Design:The proposal is a bold effort to provide a variegated solution to a very large site, using an accordion like metal faced upper section for the hotel development, while providing a standard glass and brick box like solution for the housing of the police headquarters at the other end of the site.

Boldness alone is not a measure of success, and the effect of the accordion like upper section is more shocking than satisfying, alien to anything else in the historic town of Fremantle, even the adjacent four-storey bank building built by the same developer, where former planning minister Alannah MacTiernan quipped at the opening: “When is the scaffolding coming down?” The serious failure of the proposed design was well described by architect Carl Payne in a recent letter to the editor in the Fremantle Herald.

3. Height, Bulk and Scale: The most important benchmark for the height, scale and massing of the development is set by the adjoining Goldsborough Mort Woolstores building and, to a lesser extent, the newer building at the SE corner of Cantonment and Queen Streets, and that level should best be maintained consistently over the whole site. No protrusions above this level, other than minor necessary protrusions, should be accepted. Architect Ken Adam has made this point very strongly to the Fremantle Society in his analysis. It is accepted that the 21m height limit approximates this level.

4. Queen Street Shops: A key issue that needs resolution is the six shops on Queen Street that are part of this site. As urban planner Malcolm Mackay stated in a commentary commissioned by the Fremantle Society: The retention of the existing shops to Queen Street is unfortunate as the north-western corner of the site is a prominent corner that is clearly visible to people arriving in Fremantle at the railway station; also, the corner would have offered an excellent opportunity to establish a strong and welcoming architectural feature.

Given that the developer owns most of those shops, and that council has the power of compulsory acquisition, the remaining shop should be acquired, and the six existing shops demolished to allow a better design outcome for the hotel development and the realignment of Queen Street.

5. Car Bays:The proposal submitted is seriously deficient in car bays, and the Fremantle Society believes that the anti-car agenda pursued by the council since 2010 needs reviewing, and the development of this site demands adequate parking for supermarket, office, hotel, and the special needs of the police.

6. Interior Quality:The quality of the interior fit out for residents who regularly shop at Coles and others using this prominent site needs to be higher than previous developments by this developer.

7. Percent for Art: While the percent for art scheme initiated for council for major new projects was a good idea in theory, it has been a catastrophic failure, in general littering Fremantle with substandard art work.

Given the fact that the previous woolstore on the site is partially interpreted by interior original wooden beams, and a historic machinery remnant outside on the northern side of Coles, which should be kept and retained in any future development, the Fremantle Society suggests that the percent for art money be used for further historic interpretation of this important site, which could be internal in public spaces or outside. That opportunity for example was missed when the “Manning’s Folly” site was redeveloped as the Quest Apartment Hotel, without any successful attempt to interpret the highly significant history of that site internally or externally.

8. Design Detail: There is not enough detail of materiality or quality of finish and that should be provided before any approval is given. The lack of effort by the developer is exemplified in the statement that the height of the Coles supermarket ceiling will be ’55 metres’.

9. Design Relevance:The use of bricks as shown is appropriate and supported, but the shopfronts appear incongruous for Fremantle and more suitable to a car show room in Victoria Park, while the materials and design above the shopfronts and the corner treatment for the Coles entrance appear featuristic.

Conclusion: The Fremantle Society supports good development and wants to see developers spend money improving the town. But the Fremantle Society is shocked at this latest iteration for the site. The design has been shown to various architects and to members of the community, who overall are scathing, describing it as ‘dismal’ and inappropriate for Fremantle.

There is no urgency for this proposal to be passed, and the Fremantle Society asks that this design be rejected.

Woolstores Site Demands Better Solution

Council Supports More Mediocrity in World Famous Town

The negativity towards our heritage and inherited architecture by the mayor and council has got to stop. The latest iteration of the woolstores development is an example. The mayor claims it is the ‘best yet’,  before it even reaches the planning committee.

The mediocrity repeatedly inflicted on the world famous town of Fremantle is a disgrace. And council is actually proud of the long list of dismal architecture it has supported.

Local architect Carl Payne was correct in the Herald recently when he lambasted the ‘mis-match of scale, texture, colour, materials’ and the ‘awful’ streetscape resolution.

The Plans

Members can attend a viewing of the plans Wednesday 27 November at 5.30pm at Council at Fremantle Oval.

Submissions are due 5 December. Even though the proposal has to go to JDAP, what council says in its determination is highly important.

The Fremantle Society, subsequent to reporting to members following its deliberations and talks with architects such as Sasha Ivanovich and Carl Payne, has viewed the plans with several officers, and is even more alarmed than before.

The Details

What should be a major planning exercise on a massive block of land at a key juncture, with desperately needed improvements to Queen Street, is instead a cobbled together pastiche of cheap speculation.

The planned hotel with its underwhelming entrance does not even have a drop off zone for its clients.

Documents show the revamped Coles is planned to have 55 metre high ceilings, an unnecessary world record for a commercial supermarket.

The anti car council will no doubt support the fact that the development is hundreds of car bays short in its provisions.

The 6 single storey shops shown in the third image above are from the 1990s and should be demolished to allow the widening of Queen Street. That will only happen if council resumes them.

The lack of details provided with the application are alarming and could lead to a repeat of the damaging Atwell Arcade project where what Gerard Obrien built was not what was approved.

The whole site once housed the greatest woolstore in Fremantle and that history forms part of the context of the site that is imperative to get right. It is a challenge to respect the context of such a large site with an understandably piecemeal project, as the large police building on the north east part of the site is purely speculative, and even if agreed to, may not proceed for some years.

Some people are so desperate to see redevelopment of the site, that they are prepared to countenance the futuristic and alien upper level wedding cake being proposed.

More voices, and informed ones, are needed to help guide this important gateway to the new King’s Triangle, by closing date for submissions on December 5th.

Fremantle is too important to allow more mediocrity.


Reminder: Tuesday 10 December at Kidogo 7pm. One of the great venues in town.

Membership Fees

Reminder: Membership fees are due by the AGM on 10 December. Please email Treasurer Adele Carles :

Cheques can be posted to Secretary Chris Williams at 201 High Street Fremantle WA 6160 or PO Box 8160 Fremantle WA 6160

$30 single membership $40 family $100 business

Committee Positions:

If you are interested in nominating for a position on the executive or committee of the Fremantle Society, please get the form from Secretary Chris Williams today or tomorrow at 201 High Street Fremantle or

Featuristic Mediocrity, not Majesty, for Woolstores

re Woolstores 28 Cantonment Street Development Application (DAP003/19)

Like the shocking Atwell Arcade development submitted by the same developer, which was built differently to the plans passed, still has not had the restoration completed that was promised, and has damaged forever the goldrush roofscapes of that part of town, this featuristic design does nothing to enhance a critically important entry point from the railway station to the town.

The council’s Design Advisory Committee may have asked Silverleaf to articulate a form that retains a 2 to 3 storey profile with the upper floors set behind a continuous screen and thereby confirming in the lower floors reference to the predominant scale of the City. But, the proposal at first glance is like a giant wedding cake, is seriously lacking in detail, and should not be approved.

The Fremantle Society commissions experts to provide comment, and architect Sasha Ivanovich says:

The proposal would do well with further detail. It is a massive building and with the extent of red brickwork to the lower floors the proponents should demonstrate how the material could be further articulated with the application of different brick bonding, banding and similar. Though the screen clearly shows the overall intent, more detail would be useful in demonstrating how effective a screen it will end up to be visually, when it is covering a mundane rectangular form facade behind it and also practically, in relation to the sustainability goals which the City has been championing.

Where the project needs further review is in considering its civic value – a large project of this size, to be approved , should demonstrate what it is offering to the City for the concessions it is seeking. What it doesn’t give to the city is a convincing public realm and urban space.

There is an opportunity not to be missed in this approval for the development to cede more space to the public realm and to raise the quality of public space on its street frontages to Cantonment Street and in Elder Place, to the Queen Street and Elder Place corner, at least. More generosity with the streetscape interface and a more generous and positive urban space response would arguably also contribute to the commercial prospect of this development.”

Sasha Ivanovich’s comments add to earlier comments from Fremantle Society committee member Ian Molyneux, inaugural chairman of the Heritage Council, when he said that Fremantle Council urgently needs a masterplan for Queen Street instead of the ad hoc current approach, which means it is difficult to see how Queen Street will ever rise to the standard of its competitor and neighbour Market Street, especially if Queen Street is to become a well worn and attractive conduit from the railway station to the newly developed King’s Triangle.

The ad hoc approach can be seen in the current plans keeping the 6 single storey shops added in the 90s along Queen Street at the railway end. They should go, and the current design should make an effort to provide a strong and welcoming architectural feature on that corner.

This development was discussed with Architect Carl Payne, who said:

“What a frustrating development. We are in some kind of weird visual spiral.

The original woolstores were demolished and replaced with a dull and deceitful pastiche. Pretending to be a new commercial development in “the old woolstores”, they were just a very mediocre cheat.

We now have an opportunity to revitalise the block – this crucial railway-post side gateway to the city – and we get instead the demolition of Pastiche01, with a replacement by Pastiche02.

But trying harder. And so its failure is more spectacular; more long lasting; more frustrating.

Is the small commercial development on the corner of Queen and Elder Place on a separate title or ownership? The streetscape is now just awful, with a mis-match of scale and texture.

The Elder Place elevation is like two buildings built to different scales. Brick pilasters of similar widths, but varying in heights and distances apart. I would fail a first year architectural student if he submitted this.

The vertical elements on the extended large intestine that winds its way around the site like a half-demolished piano accordion, seem to be a camouflage after-thought.

And unlike the brickwork, these are a lazy non-resolution that come straight out of the 2019 cliché-book. Give us a freakin’ break!

The whole affect is reminiscent of Independence Day – the Movie, not the date. A giant accordion has colonised the innards of a South London housing estate from 1958.

It’s so much worse that I imagined it could ever be.

Wow, I really worry about my old town, if this is the best my Council can chaperone through the processes. The processes are broken. We are now officially out of control. “

After 10 years of low quality ‘revitalisation’ in Fremantle, we need the mayor and council to demand much better quality, and a sensitivity to the scale and character of Fremantle. This proposal is simply not good enough for a world famous town.

Fremantle Society members are asked to be involved and engaged. Go to the Fremantle Council website under Have My Say, look at the plans and make a comment by the end of the month.

The Fremantle Society will further study the plans and formulate a final submission. We will try to understand how the developer can argue that the extra height he is seeking is OK because the upper storeys are set back and not visible from the street, when they clearly are. We will try to understand the developer’s assessment report that states Coles Supermarket in the building is reaching for the sky as :

“The Supermarket has a requirement for 55.5 metres clear height throughout its tenancy.”

Email the mayor and councillors ( and demand that they stop giving us mediocrity. They will say that the Joint Development Assessment Panel is the determining authority, but council will make a decision first.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society