FREMANTLE: RUNNING ON EMPTY

While council deliver a mantra of sustainability the signs of a collapse in the Fremantle economy is glaringly evident in the CBD.

I took a walk around  the area and counted in excess of 40 properties which are empty, offered for lease, or moving. The total is probably closer to 60 as the Woolworth’s building houses a number of vacant outlets  as does the Coles Woolstore.  These pictures were taken within about 250m of the Town Hall

Very recently one new retail outlet, selling high quality home furnishings and decorations, has closed after six months. It was located in the Mall, opposite the Town Hall. The rent was $240,000,  higher than similar sized properties in downtown New York.

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VILLA, closed after six months about a week ago. The rent was $240,000 a year but trade for this high quality retail outlet  didn’t materialise. This is in Fremantle Mall, opposite the Attwell Arcade development.

Shepherd’s News agency have to move from their prime spot. It holds the longest serving tenancy of Fremantle. The original Shepherd’s News Agency was established in this building in 1908 and the current business owners have been there for 26 years. They now have to move aside for developers.

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Shepherd’s Newsagency have been located in the Manning building  since 1908. They are the oldest  business in Fremantle still operating from the same premises. Now they have to move to make way for development.

The Woolworths shopping centre, next to St Patrick’s, has been closed for a couple of years. It was gleefully broadcast that this would bring new life to the east end of the city. Opposite them the Hilton site, which used to contain a number of shops, is derelict and scheduled to become a temporary car park.

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The Woolstores centre is hosting many empty premises. Even with a carpark in situ it was not able to survive

The centre  hosted about 20 retail and office business’s. They were not included in my count of about 40 empty premises.

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The Hilton Hotel site, due to become a temporary car park. 

CODA, a mainstay of council’s PR sustainability spin, have closed shop and amalgamated with a Perth based company. CODA was a foundation stone of the Future Fremantle organisation, established to build a better Fremantle.

 

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CODA’s vacant office

 

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Coles Woolstores site is home to several vacant retail premises
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A small selection of over 40 empty retail and office premises in the CBD is shown below.

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And finally, in one vacant shop window the mayor delivers his mantra of a vibrant city.

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Lutton Slams Planning System ‘Council Must Listen to Residents’

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

Fremantle’s Elections: Opposition Totally Ineffective

Fremantle Elections Less Than Nail Biting.

New Council On Notice As Social Media Wins the Day

Fremantle town Hall: Waiting for the election results. © Roger Garwood 2013
Fremantle Town Hall: Waiting for the election results.
© Roger Garwood 2013

The election count at Fremantle Town Hall on Saturday evening was a less than nail-biting experience. Years ago several hundred people would turn out to watch the results being chalked on a blackboard and in later years, when hi-tech stuff took over, a whiteboard.

An exuberant crowd of voters would become silent as a tally number was rubbed out and replaced with a fresh total. Frequently the elections were close. Finally the results indicated which candidate won and which had, well, been rubbed out.

Sterile Process

Saturday evening’s barely detectable frisson of  excitement depended on an occasional leak from the tally room. The results emerged a little later than expected and one by one sitting councillors breathed again, had pictures taken on iPhones and any talk of close results vaporised as the numbers came up on a computer screen. Sadly the process was sterile.

Many people had hoped for a close race, a change of face here and there. In the event the sitting council gained a clear mandate for its progress thus far. No sitting councillors were rolled and most recorded massive and increased margins.

What Accounted for Council’s Overwhelming Public Endorsement?

The weather may have accounted for the poor public  turnout at the town hall but what accounted for the massive endorsement of the sitting council? The past four years have seen a great deal of resistance to council’s plans. Principle among those has been the opposition to the location of  the youth plaza on The Esplanade and the open ended and all encompassing approval  by council for towering developments in the city

There may have been apathy among those who considered voting  a waste of time in the face of proposed council mergers. About 60% of eligible voters didn’t bother. It could be said that a non existent vote is an endorsement of the current council.

That point does not ring true. A more likely reason is a lack of co-ordination between the various groups who attempted to form tangible opposition individually.  A number of small organisations, all with individual interests but collectively with a broader interest in the terms of the city’s management, failed to co-ordinate their efforts in the face of a well orchestrated campaign.

Social Media Was the Winner

Brad Pettitt’s campaign on social media was highly successful. Anybody who regularly received posts from him and his followers could not be blind to the enthusiasm of his supporters. It gave a strong impression of coordinated teamwork. Nor was the mayor complacent in the face of his opposition, Mathew Hansen,  who endured massive insults on social media. (See Fremantle Backchat: “Freo’s Shock Blog Derails Democracy”.  Oct 15 2013)

Thus the current council, with many plans in place, must now concentrate on the next four years – the home run – not withstanding the proposed amalgamation. Councillors are aware the city’s future is under scrutiny, not only from the pending amalgamation but from developments already approved or waiting approval. Leading up to the campaign, in fact part of the campaign, were many mainstream media articles related to the city’s ‘rebirth’.

Council Now On Notice: No Effective Opposition

On the latter point councillors are aware they are on notice. If one poor quality development  emerges it is likely to trigger a massive backlash.

Maybe the real threat to Fremantle is amalgamation. Currently nobody seems to know what will happen. A reasonable hypothesis is that  East Fremantle and Melville will wish to retain their leafy suburbs. Fremantle, with fewer voices in its management, may experience little more than a progression of what has happened since 1983 when seeds were sown during the America’s Cup era. They grew Fremantle into a city which is now little more than a weekend playground and entertainment centre. This resulted in massive rent and high maintenance costs in the city as well as increased anti-social behaviour. The city lost it’s community based local patronage. The danger is the two councils grafted onto the city may wish to have things remain that way – Fremantle a playground surrounded by a leafy suburb.

Thus the future of the city is not only in the hands of current management but must be considered and projected by coordinated opposition groups who are currently disparate and ineffectual.

Freo’s Shock Blog Derails Democracy?

Have Roel Loopers’ insults wrecked an election campaign?

An article, published in The Conversation earlier this year, underlined unethical practices in journalism.

The author, Denis Muller, opens with the comment:

“An integral power of the media is that of portrayal: the act of determining how people, events, ideas and organisations are described to the public, and therefore how they are perceived by the public”.

<http://theconversation.com/ethical-lapses-by-journalists-contributed-to-gillards-demise-15595&gt;

Thus, if we are to accept freedom of speech within our mainstream media, which operates under a code of professional ethics,  should we apply the same ethics to the writers of blogs?

Blogs are excellent vehicles for local, national and international comment but some lack the basic tenets of social respect let alone the laws of defamation.

The incumbent Mayor of Fremantle, Dr Brad Pettitt,  has said:

“I like that Fremantle has a vibrant blogging scene. It is hard to think of any other community that has so many active bloggers and I think, despite my regular frustrations with inaccuracies  etc, it is  a whole lot more a positive than negative.That said I’d like blogs (just as I’d like the Fremantle Herald and Gazette) to talk to me or the relevant person before going to print if they have questions or concerns. The instant nature of blogs means this rarely happens which is – to be polite – somewhat challenging at times”.

Shock Jock Tactics: Loopers’ Crass Insults

In recent weeks, during the current campaign for positions on Fremantle’s council and the two-way contest for the Mayor’s job, a local blogger has descended into little more than shock jock tactics and crass hypocrisy. Comments with little or no intelligent input have been bandied about and may have been instrumental in derailing one candidate’s campaign.

Fremantle has become ‘blog central’. Most of the city’s bloggers make intelligent, well considered, comments. They make no exaggerated claims as to their worth in the community but proceed in a respectful manner and make the most of Australia’s right of free speech.  In Fremantle we have, in addition to the more intelligent input, the ‘Shock Blogger” or “The Dodgy Blogger” who, for reasons best known to him, tends to shoot from the lip. He has been noted as being a poor man’s impersonation of Alan Jones.

Regular outbursts have seen a number of people who do not toe his line of thought or have remote disagreements with him, labelled, bullies, cowards and liars et al while he hides behind right of free speech espousing his theories of social decency.

Bullshit Mr Loopers

Roel Loopers, who claims Freo’s View is the city’s ‘most popular blog’ has to stand accused of  “Bullshit”.

Let it now be levelled at him the  fact that he is a liar, a choker and a well polished hypocrite. Maybe not go so far as calling him a Nazi and coward as he did with a mayoral candidate. But ‘coward’ may be appropriately applied to Loopers –  a person with a penchant for pathetically begging for work in the face or his openly admitted failures while condemning successful people as ‘dead beats and has beens’.

Loopers apparently spits the dummy at every opportunity. In the face of opposition candidates emerging in City Ward he broke his repeated public promise to stand for council offering no explanation. Is that cowardice or just simply being afraid to face competition – chickening out? It should be remembered that he persuaded a potential president of the Fremantle Society from running for the job, telling people he could do better but would only run if he did so unopposed. In the event he was ineffectual and said so in his note at the time of his (second) resignation, complaining that nobody listened to him and he was tired of banging his head against a brick wall.

Or was that dummy spit simply because the society had ceased to become useful to him when their accommodation facility had come to an end?

Did ‘Lickspittle’ Loopers Derail Democracy?

In the face of Loopers accusing Hanssen of being a coward he did not take into account the candidate’s repeated attempts at facing voters to gain public positions, often ridiculing his election promises without offering alternative ideas. Had he forgotten that Matthew Hanssen had made Fremantle a marginal seat in this years state election, gaining about 40% of the popular vote? Politics aside Hanssen cannot be accused of choking but has to be credited with his persistence and rugged determination. Nor should his policies be dismissed. Many of them have broad popular support.

Loopers has emerged as little more than a lickspittle, a person with an obsequious attitude to people in positions of authority or who may be useful to his relentless, narcissistic, drive for popularity.

He was looking forward to preening his self admitted ego by being a mediator in a mayoral debate. That narcism was quashed when Matthew Hanssen objected to Loopers mediating. It is arguable that Loopers’ constantly changing opinions and frequently being forced into apologising for so many errors of fact, not to mention public insults of successful people, made him the least suitable choice of mediator.  And from then onwards  The Dodgy Blogger took every opportunity to attack the candidate. It is arguable that Loopers has derailed the very democratic process he claims to love. His vitriol and demonstrable lies, as well as accusations of bullying against people who challenge him, are becoming legendary.

Did Loopers’ attacks derail Hanssen’s campaign?  Matthew Hanssen was offended by the behaviour of previous audiences and reasonably asked for several changes to be made to the debate’s structure. He was deeply offended by Loopers’ remarks and it is reasonable to assume that a general accumulation of biased insults may have prompted Hanssen’s ‘no show’.  Arguably a very important part of our democratic system was derailed because of  Loopers rants. By making them he demonstrated his crass hypocrisy.

Hanssen has refrained from detailed comment and Dr Pettitt, effectively given a free kick, chose not to use it to attack his opponent. It is a pity that the process became flawed by ill considered comments. It is in the hands of organisers of future debates to tread very carefully when it comes to choosing mediators.

“He (Loopers) will stoop to whatever low necessary …”

How can Loopers,  in virtually the same breath, justifiably attack people who deface Matthew Hanssen’s election posters, caricaturing him as Hitler and then, in a contemptible attack on the candidate’s character,  liken Hanssen to Nazis and call him a coward? That would at least be offensive and, in the extreme, defamatory. The insult was published by Loopers in a widely circulated email. Matthew Hanssen has revealed to Backchat:

“I was sent the rather unnecessary  email from Loopers directly to my email account and it went to all of the organisers of the previously scheduled meeting. It was the one which made reference to me being a Nazi. I responded via email with the fact I was offended and that he should otherwise stop. I haven’t received an email from him since”.

” … obviously Loopers motivation is to see the Mayor re-elected. He will stoop to whatever lows he feels are necessary to achieve that”

In a reference to Loopers becoming a mediator Hanssen continued:

“if you cannot run a civilised debate, in the forum of the Chamber of Commerce boardroom, run by the CEO [Tim Milsom] then what chance have you got when Loopers is organising it”

It is surprising that Hanssen hasn’t taken legal action. It is known Loopers retreats when action is threatened.

Don’t be afraid to challenge dodgy blogs

It is time for those people who tolerate or endorse Loopers, feed his ego and dangerous narcism, to recognise him for what he is. But there seems to be a fear of taking him on, of questioning his stands. One commentator has said:

“People are reluctant to take him on because they are afraid of him posting adverse comments about them”.

That commentator offered a justifiable reason. He pointed out, for example, that if a person was applying for a job and the prospective employer conducted web search for background information and found something damaging written by Roel Loopers, it could wreck a chance of employment.

There is nothing to fear – The Dodgy Blogger’s figures are misleading

However, Loopers’ blog readership is not all it’s cracked up be. He frequently claims that his blog has had a new record number of hits. And so it may. But Loopers fixation with posting about 8-10 blogs a day leads to a high ‘readership’ which he implies without looking at the statistics correctly. For example, if he posts 10 ‘stories’ a day and the same 200 people hit on them, that counts as 2000 hits. Thus, by any analysis he probably only has about 250 to 300 viewers. Barely enough to be reckoned with and not enough to fear.

NOTE: Previous  Fremantle Backchat blogs are on Fremantlebackchat.com.

That blog site has been changed and older blogs will  be moved to this site: