SUPERMARKET giant ALDI’s plan to move into Hilton threatens the local flavour of the area, locals warn.
The German-based retailer’s Australian arm is looking to buy the old Hilton Fresh shopping centre, demolish it and rebuild.
The Herald has heard the sale is conditional on Fremantle council approving a planning application recently submitted by the current owners. The proposal will see existing shops along South Street replaced by ALDI’s storerooms, chiller and freezer.
“It’ll have its back to South Street, which is hardly the best form of urban planning,” says upset resident Sue Foster.
She and other locals are up in arms, saying ALDI’s presence will spell the end for a number of local businesses and kill off a proposed village-style hub.
“This will rip the heart out of Hilton,” Ms Foster says. “The big problem is we are losing our small businesses, we are losing our post office, and our wonderful hairdresser John, who provides a wonderful service to the community. The other concern is there is not one local who doesn’t love our local IGA, and there is no way they can compete with ALDI.”
Brian Pimm, who lives just around the corner, echoes the concern: “Over the past three or four years they have done the shop up and put more variety in,” he says. “But with ALDI there the Hilton and Hamilton Hill IGAs will take a caning.”
Mr Pilmm says he’s not opposed to ALDI’s $400 million move into WA—his dad shops with it over east—but “not here”.
The company has committed to or flagged potential sites around the state, including at South Lake, and hopes to have its first stores open by 2016.
Hilton post office owner Rob Rose says the uncertainty is stressful: “ALDI hasn’t contacted us and I would have thought as a courtesy we would have been,” he told the Herald. He’s already scouted around and can’t see anywhere else in the area that’s a suitable alternative location. That could spell trouble for locals like Ms Foster who rely on the post office for their mail.
“If it was a shoe shop or a hairdressers you could move down the road to the next suburb, but this is the Hilton post office,” he says.
Ms Foster says the planned single-storey development also spells the end for the council’s plans to create a village hub with multi-storey shops and apartments fronting South Street.
Mayor Brad Pettitt concedes the council is concerned the development threatens its vision for the area. Just a month ago, a special project committee voted to increase heights at the site to a heady 17 metres in an attempt to attract cashed-up developers.
Dr Pettitt says the group had also looked at mandating a minimum of two storeys along South Street to try to pre-empt any ALDI-style developments but he concedes that’s probably too late now.
The council has come in for some stick from locals who say it’s made little effort to let them know about the ALDI plans.
Hilton precinct co-convenor Noorel Mecklai is so angry her group received no notification she’s considering quitting and joining the Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association.
“At least they get things done,” she fumed.
Ms Mecklai also laments the likely demise of the long-planned hub, fearing it will increase pressure on the heritage garden suburb to build more unpopular infill housing. She’s concerned the cumulative effects of ALDI, a proposed Spudshed and a new development at the old Dulux site off Hines Road will create a traffic nightmare.
Submissions on the development are due by April 30, with plans available for viewing in person only at the council office in the CBD.
Ms Foster can see no reason they shouldn’t be online, and she smells a rat that most of the submission period has been during Easter and over the school and ANZAC holidays.
ALDI said they’d get back to the Herald with a comment for next week.
by STEVE GRANT