COLIN NICHOL has a background in shopping centre management, leasing and marketing. He’s also been involved in the media sector, from Australia to the BBC newsroom in London. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED he takes Fremantle Council to task over its handling of the proposed redevelopment of the J Shed on Arthur Head.
THE next full meeting of Fremantle council will endeavour, probably unsuccessfully, to write finis to a draining saga of its own creation; of over five years’ embarrassment.
Perhaps it has become an exercise of determination to surmount the continuing opposition presented by existing businesses at J Shed, the Fremantle Inner City Residents Association and Aboriginal groups to plans for a tavern, brewery and outdoor drinking area on the A-class reserve of Arthur Head near the Roundhouse.
Whatever their motivation and that has been questioned, there is more opposition to come and council facing off the community on this matter is to be carefully noted for future reference.
Could they be creating a precedent? That council should seem to preference an applicant in the way they have, even going back to the first Expressions of Interest stage, must be something nagging at elected members and for future applicants to consider.
This latest development application for the southern end of J Shed facing Bathers Beach, despite the dressing-up, is disdainful of, and would seriously disrupt, the current demonstrably sustainable, long-term tenants of that building and impact their livelihoods.
Council manages the Reserve under a 1991 management order – not leasing it for 21 years as their minutes incorrectly had it until recently – and the order is ongoing.
It is subject to the condition that “all income derived from the management of the reserve … shall be separately recorded and used solely for the purpose of the care maintenance and development to the reserve”.
In 2012 council legislated that to take effect.
Proposed changes to the associated lease are an attempt by council to facilitate the tenant’s successful re-application to the WA Planning Commission. They do not include previous conditions allowing events such as rock concerts but may not preclude them either. Given the history of flexibility of council over this application, future changes remain a possibility.
Numbers of patrons allowed at any one time has been reduced, a token detail that has successfully distracted from the central issue, unless that allowance is reduced to below viability. Area of use has also been decreased and rent as well, to just under $1000 per week. GST and rates not mentioned.
The plans call for extensive paths to be constructed by council, in part to replace paved and grassed areas covered by new construction involved.
On-site traffic movements and parking will be congested, interfering with business and council may need to provide patrols.
Infrastructure would be very expensive for the applicant Sunset Venues/Events, as it could cover toilets, general plumbing, grease traps, underground services and venting.
The present electrical supply to Unit One is unlikely to be reliable for more than light consumption. Anything greater may jeopardise present tenants’ operations.
J Shed has a history of questionable additional capacity and has been prone to failing under increased demand to the point of the main switchboard bursting into flames. Water supply has also been unreliable, the ageing supply pipe is constantly rupturing and bottled water and a large tank are being provided.
Associated site plans appear not to agree in their delineation of the northern to western boundary of the Reserve, just below Fleet Street. Has Fremantle Ports been consulted? They would surely want to retain control of their strip of land.