Industry disappearing

North Freo’s coastal industrial strip in the ‘30s, with the Massey-Harris shed at bottom right.

THE march of beachside living through North Fremantle’s coastal industrial strip is gaining pace.

On Wednesday Fremantle council’s planning committee gave approval for a huge 1.7 hectare parcel of industrial sheds – one possibly dating back to the late 1920s – to be demolished.

Although the land is still zoned industrial, the WA Planning Commission on January 5 gave approval for the owners North Fremantle JV Pty Ltd to start preparing development plans.

“The demolition is associated with the long-term urban redevelopment aspirations of the owners for the site,” a planner’s report to the council’s planning committee stated.

It also noted other sites in the area recently approved for demolition.

The site is in the North Fremantle Heritage Area, but a site visit from heritage staff sealed the buildings’ fate.

“Generally, these buildings are generic industrial buildings of the era with little aesthetic value or landmark quality,” their report found. In fact, they were so unimpressed a requirement for the developer to provide architectural plans before demolition was withdrawn.

But the site isn’t without some interesting history.

It had been occupied since around the turn of the century by a branch of Canadian tractor-maker Massey-Harris, whose new breed of powerful engines drove the expansion of WA’s Wheatbelt.

Massey-Harris’s original building was razed in a fire in January 1928. It’s not certain when Massey rebuilt the shed, but it was back in business by the early 30s, just in time for the new combine harvesters which led it to become the British Empire’s biggest machinery manufacturer and cruelled Hugh McKay’s hopes his Aussie-bred harvester would one day rule the world.

The council agenda noted that a formal request to rezone the land to housing had been sent to the WAPC, but it hadn’t yet decided whether to look 

at amending the Metropolitan Region Scheme. That would be a “lengthy process involving significant community and stakeholder consultation and will likely be linked to the recently announced WAPC Future of Fremantle Planning Committee project”.

That was “mildly reassuring” to North Fremantle Community Association chair Gerry MacGill who hopes to see a “model community on the Leighton Peninsula”.

“…the NFCA, which has representation on the WAPC Future of Fremantle Planning Committee project, will be keeping a close eye on the future of this and other current and former industrial sites to see that we are not inundated with high rise development proposals, associated roadworks and alienation,” Mr MacGill said.

by STEVE GRANT

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