The competing visions for Freo’s future

Linley Lutton’s recent talk demonstrated at its heart two competing visions for Freo’s future.

As the Fremantle Herald and many of blogs have reported – at the heart of Mr Lutton’s talk was that Fremantle isn’t broken and that the Fremantle Council shouldn’t be trying to change or fix things too much.

I fundamentally disagree. In contrast to the view that “nothing really is broken and nothing needs urgently fixing”, the Council’s deliberate position over the past four and a half years is that change was urgently needed to arrest the alarming trends emerging since the early 1990’s of falling numbers of workers and residents in the city centre (in contrast to regular growth in other comparable centres such as Subiaco). Jobs in the Fremantle CBD were decreasing (especially well paying jobs) and vacant floorspace including retail was increasing. Fundamentally the Council (and the community I believe) agreed that a low density of workers and residents does not make a safe, prosperous and lively city centre.

When I became Mayor  four and a bit years ago Freo was in seriously danger of losing its second city status and its position in the metro area activity centre hierarchy. Amendment 49 and the sale and redevelopment of the City owned Point St and Kings Square properties are some of the key initiatives that have resulted from the strategy to increase the numbers of people living and working in the city centre.

The amendment also introduced provisions to achieve broader residential diversity and increased affordable housing. Using the commonly accepted indicator for housing affordability which is medium house value being no more than 3 times median annual household income (i.e. a ratio of 3.0), every suburb in the City of Fremantle except Hilton is in the top 40 LEAST affordable suburbs in the whole metropolitan Perth area. Beaconsfield is 17th least affordable (ratio of 12.3), South Fremantle 19th (ratio 12.1) and Fremantle 37th (ratio 10.4). Housing in Fremantle CBD is less affordable than in Perth CBD. Even Hilton is 46th least affordable suburb in the metro area!

On diversity, 69% of City of Fremantle’s population comprises one or two person households, but only 38% of the housing stock comprises one or two bedroom dwellings.

All of this backs up what we already know – there’s a lot to do to “fix” housing affordability and diversity in Fremantle. Just as there is a lot to do to make Freo a more vibrant city.

Mr Lutton’s preference might be for a Fremantle that slowly drifts towards been an increasingly expensive and quiet dormitory suburb for the privileged few who can afford to live in it with some bonus tourists on the weekends but I was elected to ensure the exact opposite happens to Freo.

I promised to do everything I could to make Fremantle more vibrant, affordable, sustainable and economically strong and diverse. This is a promise I plan to keep.

About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

19 Responses to The competing visions for Freo’s future

  1. Genesis says:

    true that houses in Freo are expensive, the city needs more residents to keep up the vibrancy and diversity. Are there plan for affordable apartments? Like where the car yards etc are currently on Queen Victoria st, Great views of the harbour, shops, public transport and kulcha nearby.

  2. dickbaynham says:

    Brad – The full content of Linley’s talk went much deeper than ‘Fremantle isn’t broken’, his message needs to be heard in its full context – amongst other things he was promoting the benefits of going to nine storeys – but his point was that communities need residents to bring their city to life – not empty office spaces which create a ghost towns after dark.

    This is what is beginning to change Perth – and we need more of that in Fremantle.

    • We actually don’t disagree on this then. Freo needs more office space and more office employees if it is to be a real seven day a week economy and that should sit side by side with new residences.

      • Kel says:

        Hi Brad,

        I saw you in High street this morning.

        I was there also. I was looking at the empty office space in the city centre.

        I hope you were and taking notice also.

        I have a family member who has engaged me to sort out an office for his business.

        I have spent a great deal of time doing this.

        Here are the facts.

        Availability of office rental space in Fremantle has never been so abundant.

        Office rent has” more than halved” in the past few years due to clientel moving out of Fremantle.

        Owners have responded by reducing rent to below market value “but they are still empty”


        The real concerns is that THERE IS NO PARKING FOR THEIR CLIENTS TO COME AND GO and the recent decision by FCC to sell of the Point St Carpark, Banister St Carpark,Spicer site Carpark is the catalist.

        Shoppers/business clientel will not park and walk from the City Perimater.They do not do it now it is near empty at times.. City workers do.

        You all need to rethink this one.

        Turn over of 500 or so carpark bays every hour or so would have kept these businesses viable.

        Also Lessees of the Buildings around the Kings Square Development are moving out and Lease signs are going up because they do not want to have to contend with a noisy dusty Major building site for the next decade without knowing FCC`s construction schedule.

        Sadly you as Mayor,Elected members and the Fremantle City Council have now gone too far The damage has been done.

        Look out you Office widow Brad they are there for you to see.

        To top it off FCC has approved Residental buildings in East Fremantle to be built “without carbays”.They have to park on the Streets. (Happy Developers,more units to sell)

        I think you need to start listening to the right people Brad and I feel Mr Lutton is one of them.

        I don`t expect you to listen to me but blind freddy is.

        The worm has turned.

        I do hope you post this Brad.

        Thank you

      • Kel
        Listening – yes.

        Agreeing with you – no

        cheers, Brad

  3. Craig says:


    I disagree with your second hand take on the heart of the presentation by Linley Lutton.

    The talk covered a range of matters but the heart of the presentation was clearly that the best outcomes for vibrant, diverse and likeable precincts are where the community, developer and councils all work together. The community takes more ownership in initiatives where it feels involved in the process.

    The perception of many attending the presentation being that currently the Council doesn’t take ratepayers consultation seriously enough, overrides community concerns, and dismisses alternative and valid constructive viewpoints.

    On a minor matter related to the presentation. As you are also aware, the allowance claim made by the inner city residents precinct for the costs of the presentation by Linley was rejected by the Council. This is hardly in the spirit of the Council’s Community Engagement Policy, and if this decision was reconsidered it would be a golden opportunity to redeem some lost goodwill with ratepayers.

    • Craig
      I have asked for a copy of the presentation so happy to look at it then.
      The allowance claim is not my call (that of the CEO) but I understand it did not meet the policy for precinct funding so left the CEO in a tricky position unfortunately.

      • Kel says:

        Hi Brad,

        It is always so convenient to blame the CEO.

        There in lies the Problem

        You as the Mayor and Councillors pass on “delegated authority ” to the CEO of the City of Fremantle to make future decisions about critical issues which affect the residents and ratepayers of Fremantle.

        This action eliminates the need for these future changes of these items to go to Council for Community involvement

        MOU`s (MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING) are another case in point.
        Once passed the “fluffy” detail can be manipulated without going back to Council.

        This practice allows Elected members to manipulate issues by negotiation with the CEO outside Council to gain your end results and when the sh-t hits the fan the CEO becomes the the one to blame.

        This practice has to be curtailed. We need consultation.

        The Sunset Events proposal for Arthurs Head was fined tuned by Councillor Sullivan and a MUO included in the Committeee Recommendation on the 12th Feb last

        This MUO is another tool to remove the Community from future consultation on a lease if it passed at Full Council on next wed 25th Feb 2014 Full Council meeting.

        WE DO NOT WANT AN MUO WITH SUNSET EVENTS OR ANY PROPONENT even if a small bar is approved as per the EOI.

        We have seen what it does and how the Residents and Ratepayers of Fremantle miss out with the MUO`s with Notre Dame and the Chamber of Commerce to name a few.

        Brad this is not on!

        Appologies for shouting in text but you will not listen!

        Thank you

  4. Norman Erickson says:


  5. Craig says:


    On the allowance claim, I’ve emailed the CEO to clarify the precinct guidelines as it is not clear and I have not received a reply back.

    As we know the Council itself clearly gets around policy and guidelines if it suits. For the allowance claim it is a pretty blunt signal that the Council wishes to disempower the inner city ratepayers & residents and community consultation.

    Community consultation (such as J Shed) organised by Council can encompass any one from any where who recreates in Fremantle, and is given the same weight in the eyes of the Council as inner city residents & ratepayers. Is that particularly reasonable? In the case of precinct bodies, the Council clearly wishes to discourage, confine and corral precinct gathering so there is no wider (any one from any where) participation.

    Pretty shabby and again as I say hardly in the spirit of the Council’s Community Engagement Policy.

  6. Jackson says:

    Great comments Brad. Fremantle needs a modern vision to compete with the plans of other metropolitan centres. I just hope Fremantle is able to secure some substantial office pre-commitments to ensure these great projects can proceed.

  7. Linley Lutton says:

    I am sorry for this long reply however the Mayor’s comments need to be corrected.

    The Mayor’s comments seem to focus on his claim that Fremantle is indeed broken due to problems of housing affordability and loss of retail premises and their associated work force in the inner city area and he is going to fix it.

    In my talk I provided a whole range of provable, objective indicators supporting the argument that Fremantle is not broken. I did say that a few wool stores should be redeveloped and some tired 1960’s buildings could be upgraded but apart from that it was not in bad shape in social and economic terms.

    With respect to the Mayor’s comments about affordability, housing affordability for lower income households is a metropolitan and a nation-wide problem which has arisen due to an acute imbalance between supply and demand. Even the state government with all its resources can only have a limited impact on this issue.

    The ratio used by the Mayor to support his argument that housing affordability in Fremantle is a real problem is completely at odds with how housing affordability is actually calculated. Housing affordability is traditionally defined as being the percentage of income a household spends on housing. The principle is that people can be regarded as being in financial stress when the percentage of their income devoted to housing costs rises above 30%. It has nothing at all to do with a comparison between house value and annual income as the Mayor states. I can recommend to the Mayor the excellent paper by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute titled “Housing affordability for lower income Australians” (2005).

    So, how widely spread is the issue of affordability in Fremantle. According to the ABS, 24% of households in Fremantle earn an income of $10,000 per month ($2,500 per week). Assuming a medium monthly mortgage repayment of $1,800 it can be seen that there is not an affordability issue in this bracket. The next major group representing about 42% of Fremantle households earn an average monthly household income of between $4,200 and $7,824 ($1,050 and $1,956 per week respectively). There is some affordability stress in the lower bracket here.

    The problem area lies with the lowest income group with an average monthly household income of $1,386 ($346 per week). Fremantle has a higher percentage of people in this bracket than most areas in the metropolitan area. Access to housing for this group, other than rental housing, is a major problem indeed as it is in many, many parts of the metropolitan area. It is not a sign of a broken Fremantle.

    I cannot see any innovative solutions to the broad problem of providing affordable housing for the lower income households in amendment 49 other than its requirement for developers to set aside15% of the net lettable area in a residential development for affordable housing. Targets like this for affordable housing in new residential developments have been in existence in Australia since 1970 and they don’t add a great deal of affordable housing. I seem to recall reading recently that when pressured, the COF lowered this requirement on a recent development and this is what always happens. Developers don’t like this approach because they see it as a devaluation of the property they are trying to sell.

    Setting targets for affordable housing in new developments only really makes an impact when large numbers of residential projects are emerging and it would seem, judging by the Mayor’s criticism of my comments about residential in the inner city area, he would prefer to see commercial development in the inner city area which makes the allocation of affordable housing somewhat tokenistic.

    Community housing projects are the real way forward for affordability and this is the area the COF should be investigating if they are not already doing so. So much can be achieved when the community get involved and devise these innovative projects.

    With respect to the decline in retail floor space and its associated workforce, I explained in my talk that Fremantle is under enormous pressure from nearby retail nodes such as Claremont and Booragoon. Fremantle cannot compete with the pull of these centres.

    Convenience retail can possibly exist in Fremantle at the rate of around 2.5m2 per resident. Presently the COF is looking at approving projects with around 10,000m2 of retail floor space in developments at Point Street, Queensgate, Myer and the Spicer car park site. This amount of retail will require 4,000 new users if it is to survive. The amount of office space being provided in these buildings is around 30,000m2 which will generate 2,000 workers (15m2/worker). Combine this with the apartment dwellers from Point Street and there is still nowhere near the inner city residential population to support the retail proposed. It is also important to note that large projects such as those being proposed in the city centre have a very strong track record of not eventuating. The emergence of real projects only happens when certain commercial and social factors are in play and these are not existent in Fremantle at present. I presented these in my talk. This is why I made the point that the COF is better focusing on doable smaller projects and many of them.

    The Mayor also shows little understanding of what a dormitory suburb is. The term dormitory suburb applies to suburban housing developments where no commercial or retail development exists. They are called dormitory suburbs because the residents do no more than sleep in their houses, traveling elsewhere for leisure and work.
    The Fremantle city area will never be a dormitory suburb due to the presence of so much existing non-residential building stock.

    Fremantle needs a large number of permanent residents living above ground floor in the West End and it needs large numbers of residents living in King Square, along with commercial space and some retail. The combination of the three is essential and this is precisely what the great squares of Europe are like.

    I will let the reader make their own determination if the Mayor is indeed being realistic and effective in his endeavour to redevelop Fremantle and if his assertions about affordability are accurate. Cities do not grow or develop through transmogrification or sheer will power. Any developer will tell you that the ‘sweet’ development projects are the small ones where the risk is manageable and this is what Fremantle should focus on.

  8. Paul says:

    It is clear to me that Lutton has no grasp of market dynamics and essentially believes that the Government/Council should be making all the decisions with regard to the number of apartments, the total commercial floor area etc.

    What he doesn’t understand is that the market (and hence the developers) are best placed to determine how many apartments and how many m2 of floor space needs to be delivered. The role of the council is simply to provide the framework indicating where and in what form those apartments and commercial developments should be developed if needed.

    Further, I note that there are better quality pictures of the Queensgate development in the latest LDAP agenda. Like most of the recent Fremantle development proposals the quality of this design seems very high, even if the development itself is quite small.


  9. Spiro says:

    All this talk of vacant office space but do people realise the vacant space in Freo is basically unlettable due to it’s poor quality that no business worth its salt would touch. This is the result of years of landlord neglect coupled with the prohibitive costs of renovating heritage stock to bring it up to scratch.

    If A grade office space is developed they WILL come. I know a lot of business owners big and small that would love to set up in Freo because they love the place but not the office space currently on offer.

    Think about it, would you rather set up in a well-loved, beautiful seaside location with good transport links and amenities or a boring, souless place like West Perth or Subiaco (or worse out in a dormitory office space out in the burbs)?

    Kudos to the council for loosening the reigns, sticking to their guns and letting the market decide. For far too long it has been the hardline locals deciding what’s best for Freo and they have failed miserably.

    Freo is a city, not a country town so let’s start treating it as one.


  10. Nonie Jekabsons says:

    I am not a resident of Fremantle, or nearby, nor have any commercial interest in the area but I am familiar. Posts on this blog (quite the soapbox) are of interest to me in the context of planning and design, a discipline which I feel is becoming corrupted by financial interests all too commonly. When this mayor says he is listening, I think he has read something and then responded to it. Fine, but sometimes contemplation might bear fruit. I applaud Freo locals for caring. That people are passionate about where they live demonstrates that it’s already special. Up and down the coast there are “greenfields” suburbs being created RIGHT NOW, and anyone with the capital and motivation can create a vibrant town centre or whatever. Imagination is the magic ingredient, planning is the sensible constraint and design is the sublime execution. Wise design responds to site. First do no harm.

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