For those of you that don’t get the Fremantle Herald here is a “Thinking Allowed” I wrote in response the “hi-rise” debates in fremantle.
It was fantastic to see last week’s Herald facilitating a robust public dialogue on the Council’s plans for Fremantle’s future. Each article raised some important issues that deserve a response.
John Dowson, who is well known for his dislike of anything much above three storeys, argued that the Fremantle Council was promoting the equivalent of the much disliked ING project within Fremantle’s centre. This criticism misses its target because we all agree with John that this proposal was frustratINGly below par. ING was a soulless, big box development with little sense of place or history. With its 1,000 plus car bays and inward looking retail component it turned its back on Fremantle and was rightly rejected by both the community and Council.
In direct contrast to John Dowson, Paul Roberts advocated even taller buildings arguing that the community is not concerned by height but rather the quality and aesthetic of new and possibly higher buildings. While tall can be beautiful (for example, I love the Port Authority Tower) I think the European-scale Council has proposed for its scheme amendment is the right fit for Fremantle.
Sydney-sider Laurence Troy was concerned that Council was going to make Fremantle even more unaffordable through the “construction of elite apartment enclaves… of million-dollar plus apartments”.
In his research Laurence obviously hadn’t got around to reading the affordable housing provisions spelt out in the scheme amendment which includes 10% social housing in addition to a mandatory 25% allocation to small, more affordable dwellings for many of the sites.
These provisions will ensure the thousands of new residents moving into Fremantle’s inner city from a diverse range of income levels and enable key workers such as teachers and nurses to live in Fremantle again.
As with Lloyd Hammond’s earlier Herald piece, Laurence Troy also stated that “density in itself will not create a sustainable urban future”. This is like saying that driving a Toyota Prius won’t in itself give you good fuel economy. While true if you drive it like Michael Schumacher late for a meeting with Bernie Ecclestone; the hybrid engine of the Prius means that more fuel efficient motoring is far easier to achieve than driving a V8 Commodore.
Similarly, as CUSP’s sustainable six clearly articulated, greater densities provide the best foundation for a more sustainable, less energy intensive urban future. But for this to work properly, the planned density also needs buildings that are environmentally sustainable and linked with good public transport. This is why mandatory best practice environmentally sustainable design is being locked into Fremantle’s proposed scheme amendments. Imagine buildings that are so green they recycle their own water and produce more power than they use. That is the kind of buildings your Council is encouraging in your city centre.
Emma Powell claimed the design guidelines for this area could be written on the back of a beer coaster (this is so highly improbable that I’m happy to buy a carton of beer for the first adult who can prove me wrong). The reality is that the scheme includes a large number of design requirements not only around building heights (the much publicised and most discussed part) but also (skip to next paragraph if planning detail bores you!) permitted uses, design quality, weather protection, the generation of street activity, the impact on distant views, visual permeability, compatibility with adjoining buildings, streetscape, roofscape, parking, building setbacks etc etc etc.
The next stage of the process will be to work with the community to further refine these principles into detailed policies that will sit under the overall requirements of the planning scheme. This will complement additional place-making guidelines including how best to link Kings Square to the railway station. This process will kick off early in the New Year.
We all agree that Fremantle needs to be revitalised (well 98% of people do judging from our interactive community consultation) but this must occur in a way that enhances what is great about Fremantle: its diversity, its uniqueness, its vibrancy, its focus on the arts, on creativity and innovation, on social justice and environmental leadership.
The planned amendment has the potential to bring up to 2,500 more CBD residents, 500 affordable apartments, 70,000 sqm of new office space and office workers, innovative green buildings, more retail diversity, and safer streets to our CBD – all without touching a single heritage building.
It’s no wonder that for the first time in decades the Fremantle community is finally ready to shift from simply talking about what we don’t want, to articulating what we do want. While this scheme amendment alone won’t revitalise Fremantle it will play a vital part – especially if we are all able to work together constructively to make our shared vision a reality.