A very orderly mob met at The Local Hotel in South Fremantle Tuesday night under the Politics In The Pub banner to discuss the proposed redevelopment of the old Stan Reilly/Cappuccino Carpark site in central Freo as a new Fremantle District Police Station.
Jumping ahead, it’s fair to report that while most folk at the meeting liked the idea of of a new district police station in Freo, there was hardly a kind word for its proposed location on busy South Terrace between Fremantle Hospital and The Old Synagogue, backing onto Fremantle Oval. The plain sentiment of the meeting was that while it’s a good idea, it’s totally in the wrong place.
If the meeting were a formal policy-making body with control over development applications like this one, it clearly would have resolved to send the DA back to the applicant with instructions to rethink the location of the proposed development.
The first speaker at the event was former Freo Mayor and current Greens MLC in the State Parliament, Dr Brad Pettitt, who emphasised that the decision to locate the new police station on the old Stan Reilly/Cappuccino Carpark site was to be explained entirely by the fact the WA Police don’t have to put their hands in their pockets to find any funds to acquire a site, because it is State owned. ‘All about saving money’ was Dr Pettitt’s message. He also regretted the decision of the State Government seriously limited future plans for a comprehensive and integrated redevelopment of the Fremantle Oval/Fremantle Hospital precinct.
Well known Freo blogger, Roel Loopers, then spoke in a similar vein, unable to understand why such a large district police station would be constructed on such an important Freo thoroughfare, and in the process remove a heritage-listed, Convict-era wall on South Terrace, reducing it to rubble, then encasing the rubble in wire-mesh pillars for Freo folk and visitors interested in Freo’s Convict Establishment history to lovingly gaze at in years ahead.
Rebecca Clarkson, a board member of the influential Freo Design group, appeared to be non-plussed by the design. When folk at the meeting wondered why the applicant had only provided a few images that gave perspectives of the proposed building from the height of a crane, and not from a ground level, at a human scale, she intimated the applicant would have such human scale images but has chosen not to share them with the Freo public. It would appear that various parties around Freo have been engaged by the applicant in some early consultations about the proposed development and its design but were obliged to sign non-disclosure agreements. As a result they can’t now speak publicly about what they know. Precious!
Adin Lang, current City of Fremantle City Ward Councillor, addressed a number of other central Freo sites where the police station could be constructed less controversially. He was also critical of the manner in which the applicant has engaged with the Freo public, and emphasised that in the case of the proposed construction of a new police station at Baldivis, south of Fremantle, the proponent has taken great steps to engage with the local residents, including by providing human scale video illustrations of how the building would work in its immediate locality. By contrast, he lamented, we have the limited form of ‘consultation’ now being offered by the applicant in Freo. Is it because Freo folk have a reputation for complaining? the meeting wondered. Easier to avoid people with strongly held and well-reasoned views? Obviously!
There can be little doubt that the location of the proposed Fremantle District Police Station in South Terrace, Fremantle, is sub-optimal. It should be located somewhere else in Fremantle where the comings and goings of Police vehicles, in particular, is far better suited to the immediate locality, and less likely to create dangerous situations for passing pedestrians, hospital visitors, school children and the like, and where the design of such a large building is likely to have less of a visual impact in the immediate locality.
The meeting ended with the expressed grievance that, yet again, Freo people are taken for granted by a State Labor Government that so many support. No doubt the Premier, Roger Cook, and his Cabinet colleague and local Freo Member, Simone McGurk, will be alert to the grievance.
The DA will soon go before Fremantle City Council for comment before being determined by a JDAP – a joint development assessment panel comprising 3 State-appointed members and 2 Freo Councillors. Unfortunately, JDAPs have a well-deserved reputation for uncritically favouring big developments.
It is, of course, not too late for the Government to arrest the DA and rethink the appropriate location of the new Freo district police station before it proceeds to JDAP. But will they?
* By Michael Barker, Editor, Fremantle Shipping News
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