Fremantle Not Broken

Dr Linley Lutton, who recently retired from Fremantle Design Advisory Committee (DAC), made a public presentation on Tuesday evening (18th February) as to the faults in the city’s current planning system.  He  outlined the importance of street level activity encouraged by using a blend of cafes and a variety of shops and advocates a mix of office and residential accommodation above street level. He stressed that Fremantle is not a broken city.  The overwhelming impression he gave is that Fremantle can be readily developed with medium to high-rise buildings providing more consideration is given to the style and use of buildings.

The public meeting, organised by Fremantle Inner City Residents Association (FICRA) attracted a near capacity audience of about 200 at Notre Dame University.

Dr Lutton detailed faults with the plans for Queensgate and the massive Point Street proposal. Underlining what he considered essential setbacks of higher stories in order they are not visible from street level, he used a simple projected presentation for the purpose backed up with drawn on buildings to underline systems which he explained are being used around the world.

Lutton was emphatic that the planning approval system operated by Fremantle council should be changed. In particular he feels the city’s planning committee should be abandoned and proposals should be placed before all council members.

He also stressed that regular changes to the committee chair should be made, dispensing with what he described as ‘political appointments’.

‘ … you’ll only get developers views’

The most radical recommendation is that an incorporated body should be formed to mount legal challenges to council decisions related to poor quality development.

Dr Lutton underlined that councils should listen closely to residents. He said: “If you only listen to developers you’ll only get developers views”.

He also stressed that council’s wish list for property development indicated the amount of office space planned was impractical. Latest figures show Perth is oversubscribed with office space. The figures have been challenged by Councillor Andrew Sullivan in information given to Backchat following the public meeting.

Two councillors attended the meeting. South Ward councillor Andrew Sullivan who was the former chair of the city’s planning committee and Bill Massie from Hilton Ward. City Ward councillors Rachel Pemberton and newly elected Simon Naber did not attend. Mayor Dr Brad Pettitt sent apologies (He had an official engagement with the Portuguese Ambassador) but has asked for a viewing of a video made of the presentation. Fremantle’s Director Of planning, Phil St John, attended.

Massie:  ‘I disagree’

Councillor Massie, while agreeing with the overall thrust of the evening’s presentation was at odds with Dr Lutton on a few points: “I disagree with Linley that Fremantle is not a  broken city. What council are trying to do now is repair damage caused by our predecessors”.

He went on to say:

“I also disagree that mall’s do not work … you only have to go to Perth’s Hay Street Mall to see they can …I also believe that Fremantle does require major retailers in the heart of the city attracting customers that may look elsewhere, Dr Lutton stating major retailers can go to Cockburn, Garden City or Claremont is driving business out of the heart. There is a need for Fremantle to move forward which includes development residential, retail & office space which may not be in demand at this point but the market changes & we need to be in a position to meet the demand as required”

Sullivan: ‘Fremantle clearly in the doldrums … faces insignificance’

Councillor Andrew Sullivan did not discuss any of the points made by Dr Lutton publicly though he has given a detailed response to Backchat. 

He agrees to an extent that Fremantle is not broken but says: “It is clearly in the doldrums”. He believes the city can be a much better place than it is and fears it is slipping into  ‘cultural and commercial insignificance’.

Illustrating a need for balance Sullivan says he does not want to see the city evolve into either a vertical dormitory or ‘quaint retirement village for baby boomers’.

East End Deserves a Rebirth

He says: “Our place may not be broken but cities must evolve. The east end is a pretty soulless place that deserves a rebirth.

“Councils strategy is to increase commercial office space by 70,ooosqm, not the 275,000sqm that Linley suggested”

Sullivan continued: “The development focus is to bring a few thousand inner city residents into an area that has very low residential density which Linley highlighted as being desirable”.

He explained residential targets should be relatively easy to meet but commercial targets will be difficult in the current economic climate. He stressed that council are encouraging restoration of heritage buildings to provide high quality office accommodation.

Council’s Ambitious Targets

Sullivan explained that councils targets are ‘unashamedly ambitious’ but it is essential for Fremantle to outbid other centres as a desirable location for companies to establish themselves.

“Fremantle is a great place to work because of its setting and lifestyle advantage – why would anyone set up in Cockburn Central when Fremantle is beckoning?”

Sullivan, the former head of the Planning Committee, said: “I was pleased that Linley emphasised that residents should not be afraid of building heights proposed in Amendment 49. I agree it is important to focus on how the buildings are presented. Design quality can and should be measured objectively. That is why we established the Design Advisory Committee”.

Andrew Sullivan states Dr Lutton’s accusations that the DAC is being corrupted is ‘wholly unsubstantiated and offensive’.

“I fought hard to have the DAC created . I wanted them to help us deliver better buildings in Fremantle … but Linley is right to suggest that some developers come kicking and screaming to the DAC table … we all want standards to  get considerably better”.

Dr Lutton gave an extensive overview of the proposed developments of King’s Square and Newman Court as well as Queensgate.

Councillor Sullivan said: “He actually had the wrong drawings so the basis of his assessment was flawed. The 3D images he used of Newman Court was actually the proposed internal arcade for Queensgate. Neither I nor the Director of Planning had ever seen the plans he referred to. That said  I agree the aim is to get people using streets rather than developing internal arcades.

“Linley’s assessment of the new Queensgate building in relation to additional height was also flawed”. Councillor Sullivan explained that Amendment 49 provisions allow for extra height at street frontage but only if design excellence is achieved. The planning committee deferred that proposal because it wasn’t satisfied the DAC had given approval … that’s evidence the system is working”.

No Right of Appeal

On the issue of Dr Linley’s proposal to establish an organisation to handle appeals Andrew Sullivan said: ” Sadly there is no right of appeal to the SAT on planning matters. I have campaigned for years to to get our state government to introduce third party rights of appeal for some planning matters … only a developer or proponent can initiate an appeal”.

There were calls from the audience that Dr Lutton should be re-appointed to the DAC. Three resolutions were passed:

More Experts Called For

• That FICRA make representations to have Dr Linley Lutton reinstated to the DAC committee.

• That FICRA seek to have Fremantle Council improve the DAC committee with:

a) A rotating chair every three months

b) An increased pool of experts to draw from

c) More detailed recording of and reporting on committee minutes

•  That FICRA establish a community expert reference  group to make submissions on major developments.

FICRA have tapped into a growing groundswell of public opinion from a sector of Fremantle’s residents who are asking for their opinions to be considered seriously by council. The current feeling is that their opinions are being ignored at best or simply dismissed with no consideration. If this organisation can expand to encompass a a broader membership, possibly by broad cooperation with the Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association, it will represent a very active movement and possibly ensure a balanced approach to management within council

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One thought on “Lutton Slams Planning System ‘Council Must Listen to Residents’

  1. The 270,000 m2 of new development was the spatial objective set by the COF in its strategic sites deliberations in 2010/11. I have their summary and am happy to share it with anyone interested.

    It was after the strategic sites workshops that the COF asked Urbis to write a report indicating what realistically may be expected and this is where the reduced aspiration from 270,000 m2 to 70,000 m2 occurred. The COF should have pulled back from the wholesale height increase process at this point.

    It is very important to understand that Urbis did not say that around 70,000 m2 was achievable. They said this was an ‘aspirational target’ for the next 20 or so years and could only be considered realistic under certain conditions.

    I did not advocate for height but asked the community to run with it on the basis that if good urban planning rules were obeyed and good outcomes achieved then it could be accepted in the city center. The bar however has to be set very high – something not currently occurring, regardless of the DAC.

    The image I used for Newman Court was presented to the DAC in February 2013 by the proponent’s architects. It is in fact of Newman Court, contrary to Councillor Sullivan’s comments. It was the focus of much discussion because of its shortcomings. Councillor Sullivan and the Director of Planning will find the disc on the council’s files. If not, I can lend them my copy.

    My focus on SAT was not relating to design but to seeking mediation on matters of procedure concerning the comprehensive involvement of the community in decision making.

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