Is It All About Brian Smith?
Brian Smith, the Mayor’s campaign manager, is said to have an influence among councillors and council’s administrators. Together with his neighbour he is seeking councillors’ agreement to close the public right of way in Kellow Place, possibly for reasons of personal convenience.
Council records show the owners of numbers 10 and 12 Kellow Place are the applicants for the closure of the the Pedestrian Access Way (PAW) situated between their properties.
Brian Smith, believed to be one of the applicants, is a friend and adviser to Mayor Dr Brad Pettitt and was the Mayor’s campaign manager during Fremantle’s Council elections.
His Facebook account lists most councillors, several members of parliament, Chris Lewis from the ‘This is Fremantle’ campaign, and other advisers to the mayor including the Mayor’s mentor, Professor Peter Newman, as friends.
VERY LOW CRIME RATE
The applicants claim the laneway is a contributor to crime in the area. A number of incidents were reported to the police, with 23 reported between 2002 and 2015. Police do not reveal who the complainants were but attended ten incidents in a 13 year period. There are no reports of any arrests, charges, or further action. This suggests the incidents may have been considered trivial.
When compared with other crime statistics Kellow Place has an extremely low rate of disturbances.
SUGGESTION TO MOVE PAW
There was also a suggestion by the applicants the PAW should be moved to a position alongside another property. That raises the question about incidents of crime. The suggestion does not solve any concerns related to alleged crime or other issues of public access or concern but simply may move the alleged problems to a neighbouring location within Kellow Place. This may reflect a degree of self interest on the part of the applicants.
COUNCIL REFUSE OFFER BY APPLICANTS FOR INDEPENDENT VALUATION
In an application to council in 2015 the applicants for the closure offered to pay for an independent valuation of the property revealing they wished to purchase the PAW. The offer of the valuation was refused by council officers.
Council investigations into the short laneway show it meets nearly all requirements for a public right of way and is well maintained, however, following a submission by Brian Smith and the resident of the neighbouring property (10 Kellow Place), who’s name is also Smith, council approved the closure. Gates were installed and locked to prevent public access.
FENCE QUICKLY INSTALLED
Following the closure a brushwood fence was quickly attached to the gates, matching the fencing which is on Brian Smith’s property. It is not known who installed the brushwood fencing which conceals the now locked gates at each end of the PAW.
IS A LACK OF PARKING SPACE THE PROBLEM?
Why would The applicants wish to buy the public property? It is not a location of significant crime or other antisocial behaviour.
The answer could be that Brian Smith’s property at 12 Kellow Place has one of the smallest frontages of any home in the cul-de-sac. The forecourt and garage of number 12 has vehicles regularly parked on it: A four wheel drive, a large camper-van and a large family saloon car. It may be more convenient when manoeuvring vehicles if additional space became available.
It is reasonable to assume the reason for the applicants wanting to force the closure and purchase the laneway is to accomodate vehicles and has little to do with the management of the PAW or the alleged crime rate.
WAPC ORDER IGNORED
A decision by the Western Australian Planning Commission in September 2018 ordered the right of way to be reopened but council have refused. There is some conjecture as to Mr Smith’s influence within council and friendship with former parliamentarians who may be using their influence to have the WAPC reverse their decision. At the time of writing the public right-of-way remained closed and locked.
The Mayor revealed in a declaration that he is a user of Mr Smith’s camper van. During Councillors’ discussions related to the closure Dr Pettitt declared an interest and left the council chamber.
Roger Garwood, Editor, Fremantle Backchat : email@example.com