Council ignores expert advisers

Councillors not seeing full recommendations from $1000 an hour design advisory committee

FREMANTLE city council is accused of ignoring advice from expert advisers costing $1000 an hour—and even doctoring their recommendations—because of its desperation to attract developers.

Council sources say recommendations from the five-member design advisory committee are being intercepted by the planning committee and massaged.

The full council is not being given access to original recommendations, with DAC reports not making it to the council agenda. One well-placed source says some recommendations are deleted or vetoed by council planning staff before being presented to councillors.

A local architect who recently appeared before the DAC complained after minutes he’d requested did not reflect accurately what was said.

Minutes of the DAC are not made public and copies have only been made available to members in the past few weeks, even though the DAC has been operating for three years.

The DAC usually meets monthly to provide expert advice to council, its role “to get the highest quality developments in Fremantle”.

The committee last met November 15, when it considered three projects planned for Pakenham and Point streets and the former Rolly Tasker site in North Fremantle.

“What’s been happening is the planning and services committee is massaging the DAC recommendations so the projects can get through,” says the Herald’s source. “Council wants to get developers into Fremantle but is prepared to override good planning and design.”

The source claims a recent example involved presenting the planning committee with up to 10 recommendations from the DAC on a residential development at 85 Queen Victoria Street.

The committee struck out every recommendation but one.

The other issue facing the DAC is bully developers who refuse to cooperate with it, complaining to the mayor and CEO the DAC is obstructionist.

In the case of Point Street, DAC members and project designers have been “fighting non-stop” for months.

Similarly, DAC members regarded Sirona’s Pakenham Street proposal as being over the top for the site, in Fremantle’s premier heritage precinct.

Former deputy mayor John Dowson says Fremantle should not lower standards just to encourage development.

“When the DAC has concerns about development applications and design qualities these concerns should be properly heard by all councillors,” he says. “This committee and its advice need to be treated with respect and taken seriously. The minutes of the DAC should go in full to council meetings without internal interference.”

DAC members include Geoffrey London, Dominic Snellgrove, Melinda Payne, Linley Lutton and Nerida Moredoundt.

The Herald understands DAC members have complained of interference from council planning staff, only to be told the council has the right to change anything put forward by the DAC.

While respecting the elected council’s right to make its own decisions, the DAC members want the entire council to see all their recommendations before decisions are made about multi-million-dollar developments that could change the face of the city for decades.

Mayor Brad Pettitt denied the council was desperate and said DAC advice was taken seriously, pointing to DAC advice included previously in minutes and agendas.


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