FREMANTLE city council’s blueprint for redeveloping Kings Square has been slammed by both the Fremantle Society and former deputy mayor John Dowson.
The society’s submission, prepared by former city councillor Henty Farrar, describes the Kings Square business plan as riddled with “inaccuracies” and “seriously flawed”.
The business plan has the council teaming up with developer Sirona Capital—the owner of the soon-to-be-vacant Myer building—in a $220 million joint venture to transform Kings Square and its surrounds. The council promises cafes and restaurants, commercial and retail space, apartments, a new library and a swanky hotel.
To pay its share the council proposes selling the Queensgate building and multi-storey car park and the old Spicers site at the corner of Queen and Henderson Street.
Society president Roel Loopers says the business plan fails to disclose the “true nature of the deal” between the council and Sirona and doesn’t outline benefits to ratepayers. He says it’s full of “inaccuracies, misrepresentations and errors”.
“The overall impression is that the document has been prepared by the beneficiary of a land transaction,” he says.
“There is no justification presented for the sale of the city’s highest-earning property asset.
“There is no indication that the business plan as drafted has been subject to review by independent legal and commercial expert advisors.”
Mr Dowson, a former society president, submitted a revised, shorter submission after his original—which took three weeks to prepare—was lost by council staff.
He says guidelines in the plan have “serious flaws” and fail to properly account for heritage.
“The urban design guidelines begin with a principle which states that the heritage values of the area must be maintained and complemented, but by the end of the document, it is obvious the heritage values have been in large part ignored,” he wrote.
“This has serious ramifications for future resulting development and how it respects the heritage of the area and builds on it rather than overwhelming or diminishing it.”
Mr Dowson accuses the council of kow-towing to developers rather than doing what is best for the “delicate heritage scales of Kings Square”.
“By not going out to public tender, council has repeated the undemocratic course of action it took with Fremantle Markets, when it decided to appoint the Murdochs as lease holders, despite hundreds of aggrieved market stall tenants and members of the public repeatedly turning up in distress at council meetings to voice their concerns.”