The Elephant in the Room: in the Future of Fremantle Place and Economics Directions study

By Peter Newman*

I read the Future of Fremantle Place and Economics Directions study yesterday. It’s really good. It has pulled together place and economics extremely well and that is not an easy thing to do as the disciplines tend to be very separate.

North Fremantle’s significance as a place, in both indigenous and historic urbanism terms, has been sensitively presented. It gives the kind of guidelines that show how this can be the basis of a new city that has work and homes and sites to visit that make us globally significant. Well done Future Fremantle for this important step forward.

The Elephant in the Room, that remains the big issue for Fremantle’s future, is not mentioned in the Future of Fremantle Place and Economics Directions study. Yet it will destroy both the place and the economics of this project and completely undermine all the good work done so far. The Elephant is the eight-lane freeway with a doubled Stirling Bridge that Main Roads want to do. Already they have zonings that are not touched by this recent study, and they have detailed plans ready to be delivered.

So many cities around the world, in research work I have been engaged in, have removed or regenerated such freeways as a necessary part of saving both place and economics. We have done this with the Roe 8 and 9 which now needs the Fremantle end of that project to be removed. This must be a non-negotiable step that is taken before it becomes the basis of an election stoush.

The road goes nowhere now that Roe 8 and 9 are removed. The plan is what was being proposed as Roe 10 in the previous Coalition Government. However, it was never shown publicly as it was not an ‘elegant solution’ as Colin Barnett said at a public meeting in North Fremantle leading up to the State election. He could see how that road was not going to fit into North Fremantle then. Now the plan has been shown at the public events on the bridge replacement and its even more obviously not going to be an elegant solution.

It is trying to channel north-south traffic, predicted by modelling, to go through a coastal route rather than the Freeway. It will go nowhere after it blasts through the big walls built at the High Street connection. That giant roundabout road disaster will be the image that symbolises to everyone in Fremantle and wider Perth about what we do not want to see in the North Fremantle redevelopment project. This must be a project that enables us to rebuild North Fremantle with all the best practice urbanism represented by Future Fremantle so far in its planning processes.

The new study emphasises how public transport, walkability and place activation are what makes great cities.

This is such an important project for all of Perth, especially Fremantle, so we need to name the Elephant: it is Roe 10. Unless the Roe 10 is clearly killed off the good sense in the Future of Fremantle Place and Economics Directions study, has little chance to be delivered.

* By Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability, Curtin University, long term Fremantle resident and Co-Convenor of Beeliar Group


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