Big change in East Freo

EAST Fremantle council will hold an urgent electors’ meeting on the Woodside aged care proposal on Thursday, September 15, 2022 at 6pm.

It could end up quite a fiery affair, as alarmed residents say they’ve now revealed the possibility of the most extensive infill and higher density town planning changes to East Fremantle in its history, with the Woodside proposal being an early start. 

Most locals who have spoken to the Herald feel left out of the planning process and sidelined by their own council.

The original trigger for the meeting was the development application for a massive $80-million aged care facility on the heritage-listed Woodside hospital site between Dalgety and Fortescue Streets. 

It was originally the grand late-1800s home of William Dalgety Moore, one of the merchant princes of Fremantle.

The new development has five-storey plans for rooms for 158 patients, as well a large medical centre, wellness centre, training facility, cafe and outdoor meeting place which residents say aren’t directly related to the in-patients and will just bring in a host of unnecessary visitors and their vehicles.

The council did not intend any large meetings for residents, citing Covid pandemic risks. Yet, within 48 hours a couple of weeks ago local organisers got 149 signatures from East Fremantle electors ready to sign, to force the council to call the meeting.

Many locals are furious and others distressed at not being properly consulted in the planning process which has been in train since 2019, as the council fulfils density targets set in place by the WA government for all urban councils, to accomodate a growing population and help limit urban sprawl.

A  key organiser for the meeting is Dalgety Street’s Joanne Taggart. She says it’s not as if the council didn’t know of concerns, as she has been voicing them with the developer and council since December 2020, but had little to go on until the development application hit like a bombshell in July and brought things to a head. 

When she first saw what was proposed she felt “overwhelmed, that it’s all a foregone conclusion”. She has also expressed great disappointment in the elected councillors who she has spoken to who don’t seem to be on top of the issues, citing that there is nothing they can do about it.

Ms Taggart’s concerns were first heightened in 2020 when she and a neighbour who lived right next door to the site were told the ground level for the new building was to be level with the neighbour’s gutters, with four storeys built above. That neighbour has since been bought out by the developer as has one in the home behind facing Fortescue Street. 

Both homes have been incorporated into the development with a car park area which will affect the next homeowners down the street.

Since she swung into action Ms Taggart has peeled back like an onion all the layers of the complex WA and council planning processes. 

What she found was a new Local Planning Strategy reflecting massive changes first drafted in 2019, signed off by the WA Planning Commission for advertising in August 

last year and which has now sailed through the council with preliminary approval under the radar in February this year, following “developer-led consultations” for the Woodside site in 2020 which will have overbearing impact on home owners.

Complexities

Ms Taggart said it was extremely difficult for residents to understand all the complexities of modern town planning without a responsible local council, funded by local ratepayers, leaning in proactively to make sure all residents are brought up to speed. Ms Taggart said it’s as if the council is serving the needs ot the WA government and developers at the expense of local landowners.

Ms Taggart says inadequate resident consultation by the council is reflected in the 19 submissions it received to its low-key advertising for the new Local Planning Strategy late last year.  Seventeen of those were from vested interests in the development industry, government departments, neighbouring councils and the like, with only two East Fremantle households responding, one of whom may have been a developer.

Yet in a quick sweep through her neighbourhood she was able to muster 149 homeowners in 48 hours who were so concerned they signed up for an electors’ meeting.

Other homeowners affected by the Woodside proposal say the $80 million Woodside development proposal got a red carpet welcome and a seat at the council table as its concerns were not only dealt with, but informed the final outcome in the council’s February decision to go ahead with the Local Planning Strategy, which has hardly seen light of day by anyone else. 

Ms Taggart said while the council did attempt to communicate with residents the way they did it was unsuccessful and a number dispute being contacted. Since Ms Taggart and other locals rang the alarm 70 submissions have been filed with the council within a couple of weeks and the council now seems more receptive.

Disclaimer: Herald publisher Andrew Smith is a resident of Dalgety Street and a former mayor of East Fremantle.

by ANDREW SMITH

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