From garden suburb to ghetto

NOOREL MECKLAI is a convenor of the Hilton precinct. In this THINKING ALLOWED she urges Fremantle council to reject plans for units that she says will turn the garden suburb into a ghetto.

THE Hilton precinct convenors are strongly motivated to make public our comments to this proposed development in our suburb.

We  have long been campaigning to retain the heritage values in our suburb and although many of the residents are in agreement with the concept of a “garden suburb”, which is what Hilton was especially designed to be in the ‘50s, it was until recently a prime example of this design initiative.

Essentially it was an area of modest houses, built around the school and a small commercial area. Concentric crescents were built around this centre and modest houses nestled amongst vegetation were considered desirable to raise a family.

The campaign was essentially community driven for more than 20 years and the community strongly felt that retaining the “sense of place” was important to it. The demographics of Hilton have now reverted to what it was intended to be when it was designed more than half-a-century ago.  We have many parents, or a single parent with young children and their pets. They usually have a modest income but still want to live amongst the trees on reasonable sized blocks so they may have vegie gardens and plants.

Eclectic

There are also a number of older citizens and a disproportionately large number of state housing supported families who generally fit in to make our suburb eclectic, and representative of a cross section of Australia. Hilton’s location, close to Fremantle, made it attractive for sub-division and so-called development. The Hilton community spent many years accommodating the changing requirements of developers, including the state housing department.

Mostly single storey modest homes are prevalent here, but sub-division has allowed quasi-two-storey and some two-storey houses on the back block.  The local area plan has been modified ad nauseum, so no-one can accuse the community of being anti-development. In fact the planning rules are often interpreted quite loosely and some would say carelessly by a city council that is trying to revive a city centre abandoned by commercial interests.

They try to increase rates and approve of the most despicable structures, particularly on corner blocks where a second storey was allowed on the rear development.

Blight

These structures stand out like a blight on the streetscape, and encourage more outrageous buildings to be approved by council. This negligence of the council in its bid to increase revenue, makes it lose sight of its primary responsibility to maintain a “sense of place”.  In a young country it takes foresight for public officials, in whom is vested the responsibility for such decisions, to tread cautiously and insist on design and architectural aesthetics to maintain heritage values.

We hate to think what will become of the CBD of Fremantle in its bid to become a more vibrant commercial centre. What will they approve, although they insist that design features will determine their decisions all the applications for development that the precincts receive for comment are abysmal in their design. We should take lessons from successful European countries, and we say we have population pressures when compared to Europe we really have negligible pressure. Yet, in Europe they are able to maintain their heritage and integrate new structures quite admirably. Let us reflect on the case at hand.

We have never had to assess a development proposal quite like this one: it is egregious though is couched in terms of being altruistic.

It contains a number of irregularities and should be thrown out by planning officials, before it even gets to the community for comment. The proposal intends to create densely developed backyards with five two-storey apartment blocks with a total of 19 units with the claim of housing single mothers in distress.

The proposal talks about an ideal duration of stay being three months with many residents staying for more than one year. This suggests the lodge rentals would be more like a “backpackers”. It’s touted as “affordable housing” and claims to offer a “rare opportunity” but whose opportunity is it?

The units are mostly single bedroom with four to a block measuring approximately 44sqm, consisting of one bedroom, one bathroom and a living space.

Luxurious

These make Homeswest homes seem luxurious!

It is a proposition for a commercial precinct in the middle of a designated purely residential area. The development breaches all counts in the local area plan and takes scant interest in compliance to the R20 codes. Forget about design values, pressure on neighbours, restricted set-backs, provision for adequate parking and the list of objections goes on. Yet they have the audacity to present a set of strict rules for residents of “Evelyn Lodge” to comply with that would make a school dormitory’s rules seem lax.

This is the creation of ghetto-style living in Hilton, so where is the council’s commitment to “sustainability”? The development will remove a significant number of trees. This proposal is for “hotbox” units, with no solar passive features, requiring air-conditioning if the tenants are to survive.

Designed for a “diverse clientele” this development will introduce trouble that we have just managed to get rid of in Hilton. Although a caretaker will be on site, that person will have to be a trained psychologist and social worker to handle the problems of the transient population.

The closing date for comment is February 26.

Address your concerns to Anthony Denholm (planning@fremantle.wa.gov.au)

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