THE Fremantle Environmental Resource Network has issued a legal threat to Fremantle council to find it a new home or front up to court.
With its headquarters on Montreal Street facing the bulldozers when High Street is realigned, the group is pinning its hopes on a newly-discovered technicality in its lease with the council to buy time until a suitable alternative can be found.
Boasting a community garden and vegan café under the shade of 67 critically endangered Tuart trees, FERN is set to be evicted on Tuesday (August 20).
FERN convener Greg Hastings told the Herald that until the letter from their lawyers were sent, they weren’t getting much help from the council.
“When the lawyers approached the council about it, we suddenly went from being offered nothing to being offered two or three places,” Mr Hastings said.
He said the failed Growing Change urban farm at the North Fremantle Bowls Club and an “abandoned white building with squatters inside” on South Street had been offered as alternatives, but FERN didn’t think they’d work.
The group is pretty keen on the empty St John’s Ambulance site on Parry Street and has an expression of interest lodged with the council, but an arts group is also reportedly seeking to move in.
Despite a potential new home, Mr Hastings is still opposed to the High Street upgrade, saying there is “a sense of irony in knocking down an environmental centre to build a new highway to burn more oil, just when there is a global awakening about the urgency of climate change”.
With the expulsion looming and a goodbye party set for this weekend, there are rumours that environmental activists may ‘occupy’ the site. Mr Hastings said FERN was keen to see a peaceful transition.
Fremantle council’s infrastructure and project delivery director Graham Tattersall said the city had been “actively engaged” with FERN since November last year to help clear the current site and look for alternative accommodation.
Mr Tattersall said the city had provided free skip bins and offered temporary storage.
“The city has offered FERN the use of a number of other community facilities on a ‘for hire’ basis, including the Fremantle Town Hall and North Fremantle Community Centre, and unfortunately FERN feel all of these options are unsuitable.”
Mr Hastings said FERN wouldn’t have been able to afford the $300 per week the council was asking for North Fremantle, particularly with the loss of their vegan cafe.
by JUSTIN STAHL