THE Fremantle Society says it’s “appalled” a historic home on Canning Highway has been earmarked for demolition to help the McGowan government reach its social housing targets.
On Tuesday the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage released the 2901sqm site on the corner of East Street and Canning Highway for developers to submit expressions of interest under the $2.4 billion Housing Diversity Pipeline plan.
Proposals must allow for at least 20 per cent of the development to be social housing in line with the government’s pledge to build over 3,000 new homes.
The Federation Queen Anne cottage on the site was built and owned by Adam Armstrong in 1900. His family arrived at the Swan River Colony in 1829 along with land speculator Thomas Peel. Armstrong named his home after the ship which brought them – Gilmore.
East Fremantle council voted in favour of removing Gilmore from its heritage list in 2020 when Main Roads’ plans to widen Canning Highway included demolishing the house.
Councillor Cliff Collinson was one of two councillors to object, saying he continually fights to save significant properties from falling off the heritage list.
“I’m pretty passionate about heritage,” Cr Collinson said. “I don’t like to lose any of it.”
With East Fremantle recently seeing a push toward high density residential developments, Cr Collinson says preserving heritage sites is as significant as ever.
“They all tell a story,” Cr Collinson said.
Fremantle Society President John Dowson questioned the reasoning behind Gilmore’s removal from the council’s heritage list.
“No honourable justification has been given,” Mr Dowson said, noting that the mooted widening of the highway had now been dropped.
Mr Dowson and Cr Collinson believe the house could be incorporated into the development plan for the East Street site, the latter saying heritage properties can often be “restored to their former glory”.
“It’s a survivor,” Mr Dowson said.
East Fremantle mayor Jim O’Neill disagrees, saying there is no place for the residence in the new development.
Mr Dowson says the lack of fight and investigation by the council into the delisting of the heritage home is disappointing.
“The mayor should be defending the character of his town,” Mr Dowson said.
A Department of Lands, Planning and Heritage spokesperson has confirmed that the house will be demolished if the chosen development proposal calls for it.
“Where future development has the necessary planning approvals… dwellings may need to be demolished,” they said.
Mr O’Neill says he has faith in the State Government’s ability to develop the site in a reasonable timeframe despite the lack of progression on nearby social housing developments such as the Heart of Beaconsfield in the City of Fremantle.
“You’ve got to trust the state government,” Mr O’Neill said. “They’ll try and do their best.”
Department of Lands, Planning and Heritage says there are measures in place for the East Street development to ensure the project is achieved in a timely manner.
“Respondents are required to detail the project delivery timeframes as part of their proposal, which the government will consider as part of the evaluation process,” the spokesperson said.
The Heart of Beaconsfield development has been in the works since 2017 with no updates of its progression since early 2021 when the final masterplan was confirmed.
The Department of Communities says it’s not been able to rehouse tenants in the ‘Beach Bronx’ as quickly as it had initially planned, particularly following the impact of Covid.
It would now take a more staged approach to the redevelopment, which will see 40 properties originally earmarked for demolition undergo “major works or full refurbishment”.
“The immediate redevelopment plans for the area, including the transfer of most tenants from the Davis Park precinct, will now take a more staged-approach,” a spokesperson said.
City of Fremantle Mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge says the Heart of Beaconsfield development will soon proceed.
“Market conditions, COVID and a need to retain housing have definitely had an impact on progress,” Ms Fitzhardinge said. “We’re more confident now that things will start moving.”