Debate in the works

• Ingrid Waltham says her election as Fremantle’s deputy mayor goes some way to addressing a gender imbalance in government. Photo 

A BARRISTER has thrown doubt on Fremantle council’s claim its proposed new headquarters on Kings Square constitutes a public work.

In advice provided to former mayor Peter Tagliaferri and seen by the Herald, barrister and solicitor Ian Morison from Morison Legal says having a floor of leased offices means the council shouldn’t be opting out of a formal assessment process.

The council has argued that because it considers the new civic building a public work, it doesn’t have to submit a planning application and can approve the designs itself.

If it did have to go through a formal assessment, the state-controlled development assessment panel would have the ultimate say.

Mr Morison believes this is what should happen.

“The council is bound to obtain development approval for the administration building,” he wrote.

“In my view since part of the building will not be used for public purposes, the building is not a public building and therefore not a public work and the exemption in section 6 of the Planning and Development Act 2005 does not apply.”

Mr Morison says there’s also a provision under the act that the council should be considering the building in relation to its planning scheme, which would also require a formal assessment by it planning department.

Fremantle Society president John Dowson told the Herald he’d also been canvasing opinions from neighbouring mayors who had a different take on what was required.

“They say that if they were constructing a new admin building, they’d be going through the JDAP, and also seeking a peer review of the designs; were getting none of that,” Mr Dowson said.

He reiterated concerns that Freo council’s approach would restrict residents’ ability to comment on the building.

But mayor Brad Pettitt told the Herald the council would hold a public information session about the designs and put them up on its public consultation website for people to submit criticisms, approvals or new ideas.

Dr Pettitt said the council had its own legal advice that the building constitutes public works.


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