AN East Fremantle planning lobby group will be holding a meeting this coming Tuesday (February 12) to discuss two controversial scheme amendments in the town.
Late last year planning minister Rita Saffioti approved amendments which capped redevelopment next to the historic Royal George Hotel at seven storeys, but opened up the old Roofing 2000 site on Canning Highway to 15 storeys.
The revised amendments are open for comment until February 25 and the Friends of the Royal George says there’s a lot for locals to be concerned about.
Although initially relieved a 21-storey tower was knocked back on the hotel site, FoRG member Tim Chambers says there’s still some confusion about the impact of seven storeys.
He says the wording of the amendment is vague on how tall each storeys can be, and the group has received advice the development could ultimately be higher than the hotel. The group believes that could ruin the historic streetscape.
“These submissions are our last chance to lobby the government to demand that any new building should not be higher than the dome and not become the dominant building in the area,” Mr Chambers said.
FoRG is also concerned Ms Saffioti’s recommendation for the Roofing 2000 site will lead to “height creep” across the town.
“[It’s] astounding that planning minister Rita Saffioti presents herself as having ‘listened to the community’ in respect of the Royal George whilst quietly slipping in a gigantic development around the corner,” says East Fremantle resident Imma Farre.
Friends member Mal Christison agrees: “Everything that was wrong with a 21-storey tower on the George is also wrong with this tower,” he says. “Issues include suitability for our heritage precinct, parking, traffic, overshadowing, overlooking and over-development.”
But developer Phil Gnech from Builtform Projects, which is managing the Roofing 2000 developments for the owners, says the idea for a taller building came from the WA Planning Commission in response to community calls to save trees on the site.
He says the deal will see the developer give up 44 per cent of the block to landscaped gardens, most of which front the surrounding single-storey residential area.
Mr Gnech says images being circulated showing 15-storey development across the whole site are misleading.
But the tower option’s only one of two on the board. If he can’t make that happen, the development would ultimately end up squatter and bulkier and the trees–including a massive ficus that was singled out by residents for its importance – would be at risk.
He says because of the site’s prominence for those crossing Stirling Bridge, it was important to create an outstanding building, and says they owners have patiently waited for the opportunity.
It’s been a long road for them, with initial attempts to rezone the site scuttled by council amalgamations. He says at one point they were told the see Fremantle council instead, but ultimately the collapse of local government reform derailed everything.
A second attempt seemed to be going well until the Perth Freight Link reared its ugly head. Apart from Main Roads taking some of the land for a road widening, Mr Gnech said the department was so uncertain about the project it was impossible to proceed.
But he says this time, regardless of whether the tower option is approved, development will proceed.
The Friends of Royal George meeting will be on Tuesday February 12 from 7pm at the Glyde-In Community Centre on Glyde Street.
by STEVE GRANT