No head for heights

ROEL LOOPERS is a local blogger, former president of the Fremantle Society, and an outspoken stickybeak, who spends most of his days wandering around Freo. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED he says Fremantle council needs help from the state government to keep developments over four storeys out of the West End.

THE attack by developers on Fremantle’s historic West End needs to be stopped and the city of Fremantle needs more support from state government agencies to do that.

Applications for five-storey buildings keep coming although architects and developers are well aware that there is a three storey limit in the West End precinct.

There is an option for additional discretionary height of one floor, if it creates a better heritage outcome, or if the architecture of the building is considered to be of exceptional high quality.

What we see though are applications for boring and mediocre concrete boxes which would destroy the streetscape.

Architects show little to no respect for the spatial environment and the history of place, they just want to bang a totally inappropriate modern building in the middle of heritage buildings. This was shown in the recent application for three, five-storey buildings behind Customs House in Henry Street going all the way to the former Centrelink site in Pakenham Street.

There was also a five-storey application for the former Workers Club site in Henry Street, but fortunately that was rejected.

But even when Fremantle council rejects development proposals the state’s joint development assessment panel or state planning commission can overrule council decisions, and they often do.

The state’s heritage office in my opinion sometimes also fails, as was the case with the now cancelled application by Notre Dame University for a mediocre five-storey building on the corner of High and Cliff streets.

The heritage office recommended approval of the building, but Fremantle council rejected it.

If UNDA had decided to go to JDAP with it they might well have approved the building the community and council did not want, on the recommendation of the heritage office.

It is only the sense of community and corporate responsibility of UNDA’s vice chancellor Celia Hammond that made the university decide to withdraw the plans for the new school of nursing and midwifery and start the process from scratch with a whole new design.

I am not against the development of some derelict sites and renovation of buildings in the West End, but there is nothing that can convince me that more than four storeys is appropriate for the heritage precinct.

We only want outstanding development in the heritage area and nothing above four storeys!

Fremantle council approved the five-storey nothingness of the Quest Hotel in Pakenham Street, because according to the planning and heritage officers at Fremantle council it would preserve the interior heritage integrity of the building, but it hasn’t!

Walk into the foyer of the serviced apartments buildings and you have no clue whatsoever that this is a heritage building.

The blue artwork on the top corner of it is not suitable either.

Developers believe they can get away with murder in Fremantle because we are desperate for economic recovery in the port city.

Yes we are, but not at any cost, and certainly not to the detriment of our city’s unique character.

If developers need extra height to please the bottom triple line, they can develop in the east of Fremantle, and not even there indiscriminately.

Fremantle deserves more consideration, when one wants to develop here, and we need more support from state government to protect the unique qualities of our city!

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