WUF: Enjoy the height life

05. 46NEWS

• Paul Roberts digs the port tower on Victoria Quay and says Fremantle should ditch height restrictions in the East End. Photo by Jeremy Dixon

READY for round two of Fremantle’s height battle?

Paul Roberts is. Brad Pettitt isn’t.

Mr Roberts, a film-maker by trade, is the public face for a newly-formed group called Wake Up Fremantle, which seeks to scrap all height restrictions in the East End.

Despite the port city’s emergence from a bruising two-year debate over lifting heights to up to 10 storeys, he’s keen to start all over again.

WUF so far has seven members including architects, planners and sustainability academic Peter Newman and has released a series of 10 principles it says will help Fremantle regain its status as Western Australia’s second city.

Mr Roberts says they want to create a new “post-modern aesthetic” for the port city which respects and sits alongside the city’s heritage but isn’t derivative.

“Post-modernity exists with heritage in good cities all over the world,” he says.

He says Melbourne is a good example for Fremantle to follow, saying it has transformed itself through a massive increase in inner-city residents and great architecture.

“If you go to Melbourne they have buildings which are not derivative—all architecture has some influences, but in Melbourne they have few reference points.

“The maritime museum, the bell tower—they’re derivative,” he says.

Mr Roberts has been a member of the Fremantle Society over the years and has had an interest in town planning all his life.

He says one of his motives for setting up WUF was poor residential developments in the city. He says if developer Bruce Monteath hadn’t been hamstrung by height restrictions, Northbank mightn’t have been such a dog of a development.

“You won’t find a cappuccino in there,” a discussion paper the group has released online gently mocks (The Ed says: The original approvals for Northbank included riverfront cafes but once the more lucrative apartments were built, the cafes never eventuated).

Mr Roberts knows there’ll be a backlash from those opposed to height, but says he’s just floating the idea at this stage to see whether there’s enough support around to make it a goer.

He’s planning to produce some 3D films to show what the East End could look like without restrictions.

Regardless, WUP’s around for the long haul, he says.

“Our members have a history of success,” he notes.

But mayor Brad Pettitt says, “the debate on high-rise and heritage has been held”.

“I am not going to spend energy in this second term revisiting this,” he vows, although he quips it is refreshing to be lobbied by someone not arguing for lower heights.

Dr Pettitt hopes to get the group to address the Fremantle Network.

For a gander at WUF’s ideas, head to http://www.wakeupfremantle.com.au.

by STEVE GRANT

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