FREMANTLE council’s planning committee won’t get to hear that the World Heritage listed Fremantle Prison has raised concerns about the city’s proposed new police station.
Plans lodged by the Cook government will be debated at the committee this Wednesday, but the council’s planners are only fast-forwarding the 224 submissions to the state-controlled Development Assessment Panel which is the ultimate decision-maker, and haven’t released them publicly.
Every submission objected to the proposed police station, including one from the Prison which has raised concerns that the site’s archaeological significance is likely being wiped out by the bulldozers that were busy clearing it this week.
The prison is also concerned about plans to demolish part of a convict-built wall along South Terrace which the Herald has previously shown is highly likely to be part of the original fabric of the city’s convict establishment when it was built in the 1850s.
A third point of concern is the disruption to the prison’s sightlines.
The objections to the station mirrored the sentiment at this week’s Politics in the Pub, with organiser Christian Mauri saying the topic made it “super lively”.
Speakers included former Freo mayor turned Greens MLC Brad Pettitt, blogger and Herald columnist Roel Loopers, councillor Adin Lang and Design Freo member Rebecca Clarkson.
“The general consensus of the night was that the building is wrong for the historic sight because of its bulk, scale and height, and that it disrespects the huge heritage significance of the world heritage listed Fremantle Prison Convict Establishment site the WA Government wants to build in on,” Mr Loopers later summarised the evening.
“The big building would have a negative dwarfing impact on the Old Synagogue, and sections of the most western side of the Convict Wall would be demolished, which is unacceptable.”
Despite the sentiment of the crowd and the submissions during the consultation period, Fremantle’s planners have recommended a police station be approved along with eight pages of conditions.
The report to council notes that the State Design Review Panel is working with the state government to review and potentially revise the designs to address concerns it has raised, along with the WA Heritage Council.
Fremantle Society president John Dowson is hoping an archaeological team brought in to look through the bulldozers’ work find something “amazing” and bring works to a halt; otherwise he fears any other opportunity to find material will be ignored.
Mr Dowson says he agrees with the Prison’s concerns about sightlines, saying the new police station will be around the same height as Johnston Court with the plant on its roof.
He’s also furious the state government created a consultation group but then demanded complete secrecy, saying people with valuable and expert objections were being gagged from raising them publicly.
“The Fremantle Society didn’t get invited onto the group, but the Fremantle History Society did,” Mr Dowson said.
“So I rang the history society and they said they weren’t invited; but then they later rang back and said someone from the society was on the group, but they’d been sworn to secrecy and weren’t able to say anything.”
by STEVE GRANT