THE tiny municipality of East Fremantle is going toe-to-toe with the defence department over the Leeuwin Barracks, demanding it draw up a $200,000 masterplan for the site before selling.
The town wants locals to get a proper say in the future of the 15-hectare site—estimated to be worth well over $100 million—and believes a masterplan is essential before any sale.
Acting council CEO Gary Clark says when he initially met with the department it had a “talk to the hand” approach, but when informed a masterplan could raise the sale value 30 per cent it became more friendly.
“We have a video conference scheduled with the DoD on December 16 and I have been told they have authority to move ahead with the masterplan without going to the minister,” he says.
“Compared to where we were six weeks ago, I think the DoD are a lot more open to a masterplan and the timeframe for going to market is more flexible.
“Very few developers in Australia have enough money to buy the whole site and it could be beneficial to break it up into smaller sections, but that could take years and I don’t think the DoD would want that.”
On Tuesday the town voted to contribute $50,000 to a masterplan and to ask the DoD to contribute $150,000.
A DoD spokesperson says it needs more information from the town before committing funds.
“No decision will be made until defence has had an opportunity to consider the information,” a spokesperson said. “Defence expects to engage a marketing agent in early 2016.
“Defence is continuing to work towards a sale in the middle of next year.”
Once home to the Navy’s cadet training base, the barracks is spread over 15 hectares of river frontage, opposite the Swan Yacht Club.
Mayor Jim O’Neill says the sale offers a one in 100 year opportunity to do something special.
“This is one of the last substantial pieces of land beside the Swan River in the metropolitan area,” he says.
“We need to get this right, not just for our community, but for the whole state.”
by STEPHEN POLLOCK