by dgeorgieva on 25 November 2011

Fremantle city centre needs revitalising. I don’t think you’ll get many city centre residents, traders and business owners disagreeing about this sentiment. In fact, I’m happy to regale anyone about the daily troubles that I witness going on outside my office on Adelaide Street (‘East Beirut’ according to Councillor Sullivan). So all in all, I’m comfortable with the notion that redevelopment in this part of the city centre can bring its benefits. But, you can fit the current criteria for approving maximum height on the back of a beer coaster.

My problem with this is that Fremantle’s built character and heritage is special. Stuart Hicks says as much when he points out that in the West End we have something that is the envy of the world. Living on Henry Street, I couldn’t agree more. Like Barber’s Adagio for Strings, the buildings of the West End are timeless classics.

I wonder if a set of design criteria that fits on the back of a (be it large) beer coaster will marry the new with the West End classics right next door?

Are we really in a race against time? I don’t think so, what are the benefits of rushing a half-baked scheme amendment into place versus the long term costs of not doing things properly? We should all have genuine concern because the ‘back of a beer coaster’ set of criteria for approving maximum height looks, feels, sounds and smells like a rush job. Where are the detailed Design Guidelines that accompany this proposed scheme amendment?

The problem as I can see it is, that for better or worse, this Council wants to do what is new, but nobody wants to do what is necessary. I’m not convinced that the ‘ back of the beer coaster’ approach to design guidelines is appropriate for Freo. It doesn’t take much to meet this type of criteria. We are talking about a once in a generation opportunity to get it right! and call me naive, but I and many others are simply not convinced that a five point criteria for achieving design quality or design excellence (or design supercalifragilisticexpialidocious) is good enough.

Where are the design guidelines to accompany the East End scheme amendment?

One of the promises to allay concerns about quality of development in the city centre has been to mention that “further design guidance will be provided in the form of a local planning policy that will be formulated following gazettal of this amendment”. Besides the obvious question of isn’t this putting the cart before the horse, I can’t help but feel that I’ve heard this before with the East End scheme amendment.

Cast your mind back to the consultation for the East End scheme amendment a couple of years ago when the same promises were given about preparing design guidelines. This amendment was finalised last year. I can’t find any information on design guidelines for the East End on the City’s website and I’ve heard from a reliable source that not much progress has been made on their preparation.

Can the City of Fremantle firstly, finish the East End design guidelines and secondly, prepare some comprehensive design guidelines for the city centre!

Let’s not reinvent the Wheel

Why ignore the well-researched and comprehensive ‘Local Identity & Design Code: Central Fremantle’? It provides a great starting point and would also fast track the process for preparing some design guidelines to accompany proposed scheme amendment 49.

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that you haven’t heard of the ‘Local Identity & Design Code: Central Fremantle’ Councillor Sullivan couldn’t remember their name at the recent ‘consultation’ evening, but reading through it I can see that this document hits the mark on ensuring that any new development in the city centre relates to, continues and reinforces the special identity of Freo. So why has this document been ignored?

During the consultation period we have been promised (think back to the East End scheme amendment’s unfulfilled promises) they will be compiled while the proposed amendment is at the State awaiting approval – a 4 to 6 month process. It seems a crazy risk to take with Fremantle’s future.

Development Assessment Panels – The Elephant in the Room

Until now, you’ve probably been reading my article and thinking that ‘she is making a couple of salient points but that I trust our well-intentioned Council to make proper decisions that decide future development applications’. I don’t blame anyone for thinking along these lines. But our well intentioned Council will not be making decisions on any large development applications that are submitted for the strategic sites that make up the proposed scheme amendment.

When it comes to such developments, this will be the jurisdiction of Development Assessment Panels – comprising of five members, two of which will be local government representatives (from Council, Josh Wilson and yes you guessed it Andrew Sullivan) and three appointed professionals.

These panels will be the only decision makers for development applications this is why we must have tight, unambiguous design criteria or well researched and thorough design guidelines based on what the community will support. To paint the picture the Perth City Link Guidelines has 87 pages. I’m concerned that DAPs will not have enough supporting documentation to back up their decisions if they do not support an application – the DAP (however well-intentioned) will only be able to judge an application based on a set of proposed design criteria that can fit on the back of a beer coaster.

All our eggs in one basket with the Design Advisory Committee?

It came as no surprise that Johnson Court came in for its fair share of criticism leading into the consultation period for this proposed scheme amendment. I’m not a fan.

So let’s imagine an application for ‘Johnson Court II’ was received prior to some rigorous design guidelines being adopted – it has a verandah and some solar panels slapped on the roof – How would the DAP refuse it? Johnson Court currently stands at 28 meters – ‘Johnson Court II’ could be up to 35.2 meters.

We can all agree that we don’t want another Johnson Court. We can all agree we want excellence to come next – hopefully another timeless classic and not the architectural equivalent of the one hit wonder ‘Who let the dog’s out!’ Let’s draw breath and take the time to get it right.

The above has been published in the Fremantle Herald but I have posted it so that people can have their say.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Roel Loopers November 25, 2011 at 10:41 am

Brilliantly argued and thought provoking, Emma. Great to read well thought through arguments, rather than hype and the same old mantra.

Younger people like you are Fremantle’s future, and your opinion should be listened to!

Roel Loopers


Michael Swanepoel November 25, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I really enjoyed your article Emma. For me this is a reality check and I hope Council takes notice!



Lloyd Hammond November 25, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Emma. You make some strong arguments that I hope our councillors and bureaucrats will take note of. One is, the City should demonstrate that it is capable of producing comprehensive guidelines for the East End before they start meddling in our more valuable City Centre.



Rob Harrison November 26, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Well done Emma. City Management by beer coaster, fridge magnets and good luck.


Opposite of Wibbles December 5, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Yes, we are in a race against time. Those with kids need urgent change or they could just take off to better places. There are lots of them. ‘Reality check.’


epowell December 5, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Hey OoW,
Love the ‘reality check’ and would love more to know what you mean. Are we supposed to believe people are going to up sticks if they don’t see immediate change – regardless of how vulnerable it leaves us to bad design? Don’t you think a hideous building is going to put off more people than the few that may leave if we take 6 months longer to make the right Scheme Amendment? Good to have you back Wibbles, it’s been quiet without you!
Regards, Emma


Opposite of Wibbles December 20, 2011 at 11:49 am

You might not, but why would a kid ‘wait’, wasting their formative years, for employemnt and diversity to happen? The amendment is about activity, people – not just buidlings! Are you saying that the large format builidngs in the centre of the city are activating streets? Consider those who need different elements of substance from a city and who are getting on with it. perhaps you ‘lost’ the ‘fight’ for your prefered design. Congratualate teh council for doing something – the design WILL be an improvement over what there is already.


epowell December 20, 2011 at 12:22 pm

I will reserve judgement on if the new design is an improvement, after all this is the same place that has approved some hideous buildings in recent times, drive along Marine Terrace towards South Freo and check out the 3 level monstrosity. Tell me how the design criteria would reject it in 9 story form?
You are ignoring financial factors, if we had the amendments in place would anyone be pushing the green button? The Myer site will be tarted up – not with a D9 as previously thought – because it is not viable to knock it down.
Why rush through a half finished scheme that could scar our City for generations to come, just to pander to some developers? Developers should be contributing to our City – and the bill for facilities should not be footed by the existing rate payer base which is what will currently happen. Town of Claremont – For the North East Precinct (Claremont Oval) redevelopment a developer contribution requirement was included as part of the scheme amendment that facilitated the development. Why not have something similar here?
I want change, I want vibrancy, more people, better buildings. In Subiaco a similar amendment took 10 years to agree. I don’t want to stand back and watch Fremantle break a speed record unless all bases are covered. They aren’t.


Lloyd Hammond December 20, 2011 at 1:28 pm

“Congratulate the council for doing something – the design WILL be an improvement over what there is already.” !! Such statements, although well-intentioned, show an incredibly naivety. A well-known quote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” applies here. Don’t you think that those who unwittingly supported developments without appropriate scrutiny in our city in the ’60’s, 70’s and 80’s thought exactly the same thing? Who are you to guarantee that “the design WILL be an improvement over what there is already”? A crystal ball gazer?



Opposite of Wibbles December 21, 2011 at 2:50 pm

how can you compare the buildings that are there now with the sceheme amendment forecasts? no developer would busild a target or myers that way any more. are we even talking about the same sites? as i said before, why should we condemn fremantle children to the unactivated city centre area so a ‘design’ can be agreed? subiaco amendment? the subiaco redevelopment authority did that. scar our city for generations to come? what are you talking about? a generation has already been scarred by much crap in teh city centre – why inflict it upon another? thats cruel. public open space? the city centre has heaps of it. teh scheme amendment if for private sites most of which are build out anyway – what public open space must teh developers provide?


epowell December 21, 2011 at 4:21 pm

We can’t compare, we don’t have any design guidelines or 3D models because the said design guidelines have not been completed, hence why I will reserve judgement.
Why do you take developer contributions to mean public open space (you told me not with be concerned with your mind but you make some pretty big leaps). What about roads, toilets, bins, all of the infrastructure that will be required for the extra 3,000 people. I want more people but I want to share the load. Bike racks, lighting, paving, trees, shade……Who paid for the new park and BBQs down at Leighton? What about the redevelopment of the Surf Club down there?
Merry Christmas Opposite of Wibbles.


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