NEW residents demanding a quiet life are threatening the existence of Fremantle’s experimental Knutsford Street precinct, says Fibonacci Centre creator Robby Lang.
Promoted as a visionary mixed-use precinct where artists, musicians and craftspeople might live and work alongside residents, the precinct is in danger of becoming just another suburb, he fears.
Mr Lang last week told the council’s planning committee his Blinco Street centre—which houses a cafe, gallery and music venue—had been shackled by the sensitivities of neighbours moving into a converted warehouse next door.
“Within a month of the residents moving in we were subjected to a noise infringement notice,” Mr Lang said. “We haven’t had a single gig since. The only people who lose out are the community.
“The Knutsford Street precinct is a very unique precinct, it’s mixed-use not residential. The spirit of the people is very much one of tolerance. It’s very much an experimental zone. Over the past few years Fremantle has experienced serious business decline and it’s important that people can try new ideas without extra restrictions.”
Mr Lang was before the committee seeking permission to change the use of his land without having to apply each time.
Council officers recommended rejection, claiming the “intensity and nature of the proposed use combined is incompatible with the existing and future character of the area as envisaged by council”.
But deputy mayor Josh Wilson leant towards supporting the application, subject to conditions, and moved the item be deferred to next week’s full council meeting.
“We have tried lots of strategies,” said Cr Rachel Pemberton, opposing deferral. A “massive fan of the Fibonacci” she said rejecting Mr Lang’s application would not affect his current activities.
Cr Andrew Sullivan likened the Knutsford Street precinct to a “wattle tree in a denuded bit of dirt…it needs time to incubate”.
“There is a concern that we will see what we had hoped would be mixed use become more and more residential, counter to the strategic intent,” he said.
“To not support [Mr Lang] sends the reverse message, that this is all too hard and maybe we just build residences.”
Cr Sullivan said any issues about noise could be dealt with under existing regulations, but that was no reason not to support Mr Lang’s bid for more flexibility with his site.
The committee supported Cr Wilson’s deferral.
by BRIAN MITCHELL