Groups demand square rethink

ABOUT 170 members of three Fremantle community organisations met Wednesday evening, calling on the council to rethink its Kings Square plans.

Following a presentation by commercial adviser Martin Lee, who claims the council will be $30 million out of pocket if it goes ahead with the deal, members of the Fremantle Society, residents and ratepayers, and inner city residents associations unanimously called for the council not to extend its agreement with developer Sirona.

The agreement lapses in May but the council is expected to approve a second extension this week. Mayor Brad Pettitt says an announcement on a government department moving to Fremantle seems imminent, so it would be silly to jettison the plan now.

He criticised the society for withholding an independent valuation it had commissioned on the project, which provided a less rosy view of the project than the council’s business plan.

“As I have said to them, the Fremantle council bases its decisions on the advice of experts in this complex area and they will need to provide this information to be credible.”

He says if the project goes ahead, it will mean 1100 construction jobs, major public art, a new library and civic facilities and new retailers.

Dr Pettitt claims the Kings Square project alone will generate an additional $100 million in “retail spend”, turning the CBD into a magnet for other businesses.

At the meeting, Mr Lee said the council had breached its own investment policy by agreeing to the deal and accused it of mishandling its reserves.

Following his presentation, the groups voted to ask the council to get the business plan independently reviewed, with input from the public helping form the terms of reference.

They also wanted a separate business case prepared for three properties set to be sold to Sirona to pay for a portion of the council’s side of the project.

by STEVE GRANT

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