So, Is It To Be Or Not To Be – A Massage Parlour?

It seems the answer is, almost certainly, yes, but subject to the restricted hours of operation and the window display limitations we reported on in our earlier article, What’s In A Name – Massage Parlour where we also discussed the background to this planning saga and some of the intricacies of planning law.

When the Council initially refused the applicant’s application, he applicant appealed to the State Administrative Tribunal. In the appeal mediation process the applicant amended some of the details of its proposal and proposed it be allowed to operate its business in the first instance for a period of 12 months to establish its bona fides. In these circumstances, the Council was asked to reconsider its decision and advise SAT of its position.

Notwithstanding these developments, the furore up and down the South Fremantle Precinct over the possible approval of a ‘Shop’ application to permit a ‘Massage Parlour’ on the ground floor of a residential building in South Terrace, South Fremantle, did not abate.

Many locals, not quite understanding how a shop can be a massage parlour, and believing that a massage parlour is a euphemism for an establishment not only prohibited by law, but one better located somewhere other than in a prominent position in South Terrace, South Fremantle, in any event, remained vehemently opposed to the grant of approval by Council or SAT.

As it transpires, a Shop is actually capable of accomodating a Massage Parlour because it provides customers with ‘services’. Not yoghurt or ice cream and strawberries, maybe, but services nonetheless.

All a bit strange, you might say, but there it is.

In many ways, though, because its hands are more or less tied by the planning law technicalities, the Council had no option but to indicate it was prepared to approve the application for the massage parlour use, but only for a 12 month trial period and on conditions affecting the hours of operation and window signage controls.

At the recent Council meeting on 25 May, the South Freo Ward Councillors, Andrew Sullivan and Maria Vujcic, made their displeasure with the proposal plain.

Councillor Sullivan is quoted as saying that, ‘I think we all have a suspicion that what is being proposed by the applicant is not actually what they were doing and is not actually what they intend to do.’

However, he also indicated that the applicant had responded to inquiries made of it and had said it was not proposing to run a service of a ‘sexual nature’ and it had not ever offered such a service.

Councillor Sullivan let it be known that the community would be watching the business closely.

Councillor Vujcic was concerned with Council’s due diligence in relation to such applications.

These sentiment were echoed by the Council as a whole, which recommended the application be approved not only with restricted hours of operation and window signage controls, but also with a note, as proposed by Councillor Rachel Pemberton, that ‘reports of illegal activity on the premises will be referred to the police for investigation’.

Fremantle Shipping News understands that the Council’s recommendation will now be transmitted back to SAT and, if accepted by the applicant, will see the SAT formally issue an approval in those terms.

Perhaps this saga should lead to the City of Fremantle considering whether the planning scheme should be amended to create a separate use class called ‘Massage Parlour’, removing it from the ‘Shop’ classification, and identifying in what zones within the City such a use should be permitted.

We await next steps with interest.

By Michael Barker, Editor, Fremantle Shipping News

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