Jeremy Dawkins on 6 Storey Spicer Site Forrest Hotel

Former WAPC Chair on Freo Forrest Hotel

Jeremy Dawkins was Chair of the Western Australian Planning Commission and planning director for Fremantle during the America's Cup. He even wrote the policy for the Spicer site which stipulated 2 storeys to Henderson Street and max 4 to William Street.

This is his submission to Fremantle Council.

Andrew Forrest's companies are currently engaged in three controversial hotels in Perth - one behind the Indiana Tea Rooms on Cottesloe Beach, Forrest on the Swan at UWA as featured on the front page of this week's Post newspaper, and the one pictured above in the historic town of Fremantle.

Submission on Spicer site Fremantle DAP004/21

29 July 2022

I object to the proposed development of the Spicer site. Not because the site should remain as it is – this gap in the city should be used for an activity that contributes to the city centre. Fremantle can benefit from a new hotel, along with a hotel’s other activities and connections. A substantial and handsome building on this site would be a real asset.

I object because the façade of the proposed building is assertive, even aggressive, rather than polite and aware of its context. Unless the council expects, or maybe intends, that the warders’ cottages will be demolished, its primary responsibility is to require an appropriate building form on the other side of the street. It’s not difficult to work out what that form should be. It is short-sighted and irresponsible to allow anything else. 

I object, even more strongly, because the building is over-scaled. Anywhere else it might be enough to calculate the expected demand, or the economies of scale, or the minimum number of floors for efficient lifts, etc. To do so in Fremantle is to diminish the city rather than (i) contribute to the city and (ii) reinforce the very qualities that people stay in Fremantle to enjoy.

Fremantle as a mature city centre demands mature and patient governance that is fully aware of how cashing in on the city’s very strong qualities will weaken them. Once that begins to happen the decline will be hard or impossible to reverse. That’s the story from many other places.
Fremantle is too important (to the local community) to allow that to happen. Instead:

  • The assessment process must start with the context and the whole city, not with what might be viable or might be an opening bid.
  • The city has all the legal, planning, regulatory, policy and negotiating tools it needs to achieve the right outcome on this site. It should not be reticent in demanding the right outcome, and should fight hard for it if the decision goes the wrong way and/or there is an appeal.
  • The city should, if necessary, use its other tools if negotiation demands it: transferable development rights, offsets, incentives and swaps. The fact that the owner is a long-term investor and has a number of sites in Fremantle makes such negotiations more likely to succeed.
  • The city should call on public opinion. It is unlikely that the owner, and the architects, want to force their initial concept through the process if it is widely seen as unsympathetic, excessive, greedy, etc.

It comes to this: the city’s qualities have evolved through nearly two centuries of organic place making. Fortunately, post-war attempts to scrap the past and start again failed. In the sixties and seventies there were some well-intentioned but destructive developments, and they still stand out. This building will be added to that negative catalogue if it is built in its present form, and no-one – community, council, owner – would want that. 

The city government’s primary task is to respond to community needs and a changing economy – keeping the city alive and evolving – in ways which, increment by increment, heal the city. 

A determination to do so is essential in achieving a good outcome for the Spicer site.

Jeremy Dawkins

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society
0409 223622

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