IT was a decent turnout for a Thursday morning as about 100 East Fremantle residents ignored forecasts of a storm to protest against a proposed 21-storey tower development behind the old Royal George Hotel.
Locals are furious the former Barnett government sold the iconic building to developer Saracen Properties for just $600,000, with councillor Cliff Collinson saying a 21-storey tower was a poor return for ratepayers.
Some protestors carried placards asking for the Corruption and Crime Commission to investigate the sale.
East Freo council has submitted a rezoning application to the state government in an effort to limit development on the site to six storeys, but Cr Collinson said the WA Planning Commission is fighting to ensure there is no ceiling.
He says that also appears to be the commission’s position on the old Roofing 2000 site on the corner of Canning and Stirling Highways.
“They just want high rise, and unfortunately the minister tends to follow their advice,” Cr Collinson told the Herald.
“At the moment we’re disappointed that the minister for heritage is refusing to meet our planning officers, saying it’s a planning issue and not heritage.”
Cr Collinson said the National Hotel in Fremantle and the Guildford Hotel had been extensively damaged by fire, yet had been restored without needing to be underpinned by development.
A decade ago East Fremantle was managing the building on the state government’s behalf and ploughed more than $1 million into renovations while leasing out space to artists.
But control was handed, without explanation, to the National Trust by former planning minister Alannah MacTiernan, and the building has remained empty since.
“In retrospect it would have been better if the council had kept it, but I guess everyone trusted the National Trust,” Cr Collinson said.
East Fremantle mayor Jim O’Neill was also at the protest.
“Our concern is that it is a complete over-development of the site, and the heritage implications of having high rise in this historic precinct,” Mr O’Neill told the Herald.
“There are 300 heritage buildings in the Plympton ward.”
by STEVE GRANT
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