FREMANTLE SOCIETY president John Dowson says WA’s Heritage Council is taking too long to assess buildings it has identified as candidates for state protection, giving developers a toe-in to ruin them.
Mr Dowson’s concern comes as a redevelopment of the former Ford factory and Matilda Bay Brewery in North Fremantle goes before a state-controlled Development Assessment Panel this Tuesday, with plans for three residential towers up to an equivalent of 24 storeys high and a restaurant, tavern, office and reception centre.
Built in 1929, it was one of WA’s earliest and most prominent “modernist” factories, which caught the attention of the Heritage Council for possible state listing in 2004.
Mr Dowson said that hasn’t gone further than a draft assessment in the ensuing 18 years, with Heritage Council chair John Cowdell indicating a previous minister put a stop to it because the then-owner objected to a listing.
“That should not be allowed,” Mr Dowson said.
Mr Cowdell has called for a review of the assessment after being approached by Fremantle council and the society, but Mr Dowson said he’d love to know when that would happen – and doesn’t expect it will happen before the JDAP meeting.
The Heritage Council did advise the City the amount of proposed demolition in owner 3 Oceans Property’s current application was “excessive, unnecessary, and detrimental to the cultural heritage significance of the place”.
That helped convince the City’s planning committee to recommend the development be rejected at this week’s JDAP meeting, but Mr Dowson said advice doesn’t have the same weight as a full listing.
“At 24 storeys it would dwarf anything that’s ever been built in Fremantle,” Mr Dowson said of 3 Oceans’ plans.
He’s urged the North Fremantle Community Association to have all guns blazing when its representatives make a deputation at the JDAP meeting this week, saying it’s not enough just to repeat the committee’s reasons and they should follow that with their own expert advice.
In a message to members, NFCA convenors Gerard MacGill and Ann Forma expressed their unhappiness with councillor Andrew Sullivan, who was the only councillor to vote against the officer’s recommendation to refuse the application at the planning committee.
“A view patronisingly expressed at the committee was that people who had lived in the suburb … were resistant to change,” they wrote.
“The massive, brutal intrusion of a skyscraper mounted on a paved podium is one form of change, but a carefully considered development, even of high density, that was designed as a seamless addition to the existing community would have been quite another.
“What seems to have been missed by the councillors — though not by their planners — is that the development offers little if anything to the community and indeed is completely uninviting to it.”
by STEVE GRANT