BRAD PETTITT is the mayor of Fremantle.
IT is time we all moved on from the false heritage versus development battlelines of old. The world has moved on and Fremantle has too.
John Dowson’s Thinking Allowed last week tried to make out that Fremantle council is anti-heritage. That claim is simply not supported by the facts.
John Dowson has a longstanding commitment to history and heritage in Fremantle, but in this case he lets his political grievances distort his judgement.
Let me explain by putting the facts on the table. Over the next year Fremantle council is spending more than $7 million on a range of heritage projects, including restoration work at the Fremantle Boys’ School, Fremantle Markets, Evan Davies Building (aka Dome cafe), Fremantle Oval, Gil Fraser Reserve grandstand and the Fremantle Town Hall.
This is a record investment in heritage projects by a Fremantle council and will begin to address the generational backlog of heritage maintenance work.
In fact, over the past few years this council has spent more than five times as much each year on heritage maintenance than was spent during Mr Dowson’s time on the council. That’s right — more than five times as much!
A new wave of developments supporting heritage
Furthermore, the council‘s strong heritage investment is now being matched by a new wave of government and private sector investment — much-loved heritage buildings all over Fremantle are getting some well-deserved attention. From the Warders’ Cottages to Rosie O’Grady’s to the West End of High Street, there is a level of heritage restoration underway that hasn’t been seen since the revolutionary efforts of the Fremantle Society in the 1970s and early 1980s.
In addition to the heritage renaissance, there is also an important and long-overdue wave of new developments, as illustrated in the Herald wrap a fortnight ago. This might have seemed controversial or even unwelcome for those who want to talk down Fremantle’s future. Personally, I was pleasantly surprised to see how clearly it demonstrated the range and scale of investment that will ultimately bring seven-day-a-week vibrancy back into Fremantle (but neither I nor any member of council can claim credit for design or production of this information “wrap” as the first we knew of it was when it came off the presses).
This Fremantle investment boom — old and new — over the next decade doesn’t mean there are not major challenges for Fremantle ahead.
One, rebuilding a diverse retail mix in the Fremantle CBD remains a critical economic and social imperative. We have a small window of opportunity to get quality new retail into Freo over the next couple of years while Garden City in Booragoon is rebuilt and doubled in size. After that it will be much more difficult.
Two, ensuring that amongst this development wave over we keep Fremantle as an affordable and diverse place, not only to live but also as a place to work for the creative innovators, artists and entrepreneurs that give Fremantle its heart.
Three, and importantly, the task of delivering quality design in new developments. This has become more difficult in the past few years as planning approvals for big projects have largely been taken out of the council ‘s hands due to the WA government’s DAPs. As a result the City of Fremantle and the design advisory committee will need to work collaboratively with developers to raise the design quality bar to ensure we get density done well.
Time to move on for the benefit of Fremantle
These are the important Fremantle issues we should be discussing as a community and perhaps that is why I found John Dowson’s attack most frustrating. Not only because of its numerous inaccuracies but also because it lowers the tenor of debate in Fremantle. It is time we all moved on from the false heritage vs development battlelines of old.
The world has moved on and Fremantle has too. We can be pro-heritage, pro-development and pro-environment all at the same time. The reality is Fremantle is striving to be all three, which in my view amounts to the pursuit of sustainable development. It’s a task we all share, and our commitment and recent achievements make me confident and excited about the future of this special place.