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20 August 2020

The Fremantle Bridge is One of Many Urgent Issues

Time for You to Do Some Work

If Fremantle Council and its councillors did their job, there would be no need for the Fremantle Society to spend hundreds and hundreds of hours researching issues and campaigning to get good quality outcomes for Fremantle. They, especially the mayor, (who will by the time he leaves, have received over $1.5million of ratepayers' money) are not negotiating good deals, not looking after heritage, and not improving Fremantle's finances.

At the moment there are numerous major issues, from the moving of the port, giving away a $7 million ratepayer asset for a film studio, Markets Lease, Arthur Head, and the Bridge issue to name a few.

Fremantle Society members need to do some of the work.

We need volunteers to deliver pamphlets next week.

We need donations.

We need you to DO something. A letter/email is still a valuable contribution.

Below is what we submitted to the community group fighting the bridge issue with us.

Three things from the Fremantle Society:

1) Old Bridge: Main Roads are saying the current bridge was only a 'temporary one.' They have provided no evidence of that.

Too many people are giving up on saving the current bridge, when:

a) It is heritage listed at the highest level.

b) It is a handsome bridge that has, and continues to, serve the community very well.

c) It is the longest wooden bridge in the state and has decades of life left if heavy vehicles are removed. It is a tourist asset telling the story, like the wooden wharves of the port, of the vast amounts of WA jarrah promoted for building.

d) It is not dangerous and has not caused a fatality. In fact, it protects Northbank from serious erosion.

e) There are other wooden bridges in the metro area that are OLDER than ours, and Main Roads isn't seeking to demolish them

f) When Main Roads demolished the Mandurah wooden bridge they conned the community with promises that werent fulfilled.

g) The Federal Government, donating half the money for the project, should not be party to the demolition of a heritage listed asset.

2) New Bridge: We need a visual of a new bridge we would accept- above is a poor copy of the iconic bridge printed in the Herald as part of a Thinking Allowed on 4/11/2006. I have asked the Herald for a better copy. Main Roads propose a dreary flat concrete structure.

3) Council: The council urgently needs to tell us what their action plan is, which should include 10,000 public submission forms printed and delivered by council to counter the predetermined position of the Main Roads one.

The council submission form should:

a) point out that the current bridge, under the Burra Charter, cannot be demolished until it has reached the end of its life, which is decades away.

b) seek to keep the current bridge while having a new iconic bridge near it (as happened in the top image above 100 years ago when there were two bridges)

c) slow the whole process downs so North Fremantle concerns can be incorporated.

d) understand, with the Bicentennial only 8 years away, an iconic bridge, a protected heritage one, a rejuvenated North Fremantle town centre, and genuine traffic solutions for Fremantle, would make this whole issue a great Bicentennial Project, planning and funding for which should start now.

Where is the huge banner on the Naval Stores we agreed on? It needs to go up yesterday. A huge banner covering most of the building. Suggested: "Hands off our Bridge!"

Finally, a small point, but one not mentioned, is that the original ferry capstan base, which is heritage listed along with the bridge, has been neglected by the government for decades, and is part of the wonderful story of the river crossings in this area.

The Fremantle Society seeks an inspiring outcome to these issues, minus more mendacious Main Roads mediocrity.


John Dowson
The Fremantle Society

11 August 2020

This Bridge Only Has a Future if You Fight for It

Government Neglect of Its Heritage Assets

The totally ineffective Heritage Minister David Templeman came to Fremantle last week to hand out $500 K towards years of neglect and millions needed at the State's most important colonial heritage site, Arthur Head (meanwhile other heritage sites like the kilns at Belmont get $6 million).

He should have apologised for his government's poor track record looking after State listed heritage sites in Fremantle, and for flogging them off as fast as possible. Last week his government sold the Technical School on South Terrace for a low price, they sold all the Warders Cottages after allowing them to run down, sold the old police station and court complex for a bargain, won't properly fund Fremantle Prison, allowed enormous damage to the Spare Parts Theatre in Pioneer Park, and now want to demolish the heritage listed traffic bridge years before its time. David Templeman needs to do his job, and actually advocate for heritage and promote it.

A new bridge is not needed immediately, and certainly not until traffic problems in North Fremantle and the future of the port is determined.

The second photo shows why the proposed new bridge is planned to go upriver of the existing bridge and not downriver - because of Fremantle Ports.

The existing heritage listed bridge, the longest wooden bridge in the State, has more than 20 years left in its life, especially if all heavy vehicles are banned from it.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society

photos by John Dowson

5 June 2020

Main Roads Caves in to Fremantle Ports

Looking carefully at the picture above held by Transport Minister Saffioti and Labor MP Josh Wilson, it would seem that the new $130 million bridge for Fremantle will be built downstream of the current one (oceanside) and include rail, in a “combined road/rail solution.”

But, since this photo op promoting jobs (temporary ones for out of town workers) and “busting congestion” (while carrying no more vehicles than today), the rumour mill has it that Main Roads have decided to put the new bridge UPSTREAM of the traffic bridge due to pressure from Fremantle Ports, a government money making enterprise. Fremantle Ports for over 100 years has tried to push their port up the river at every opportunity and would be dead against a downstream option.

Such a cave in by Main Roads would:

a) necessitate the destruction of the current heritage listed timber bridge.

b) fail to deliver the improved rail access.

c) fail to deliver the possibility of extending Curtin Avenue for a seamless interface with the bridge, thus saving the town centre of North Fremantle from its current status as a traffic sewer for 25,000 through vehicles a day.

The Fremantle Society points out that the current wooden traffic bridge is heritage listed at the highest level of listing, is capable of having its current life extended, and if a new bridge is built, the wooden bridge should remain for pedestrians and cyclists, and be maintained by Main Roads.

Main Roads needs to listen to the community it serves, and not Fremantle Ports.

25 May 2020

A Bridge Too Far?

The Fremantle Society last week broke the news that Main Roads are about to launch plans for a new bridge over the Swan River at Fremantle. We noted that over the years there has been, and still is, a great deal of support for the current heritage-listed bridge, and last week the Fremantle Society resolved that the current bridge should be preserved at all costs. We do not want Fremantle Council caving in from their previous strong support for the WHOLE timber bridge, nor do we want Main Roads saying that they cannot afford to keep and maintain it.

We asked for your ideas and memories of the current bridge, but all we got was static about 5G causing the virus.

President John Dowson provides a virus free sketch (above) made when he was in primary school, and there must be plenty of people out there who also have a story to share .

Agnieshka Kiera, Fremantle Council Heritage Architect for 25 years, lets rip with her comments as below:

The historic Fremantle bridge has to stay. Not only for the reason of its heritage significance and, being listed on State Heritage, planning and compliance reasons. It should also stay for its greater importance to the city as the strategic urban feature and gateway to Fremantle, as follows:

since its construction the bridge has provided the vital pedestrian (and traffic) connection, not only between Fremantle and Perth but equally importantly between Fremantle and North Fremantle historic town centre;

while the main vehicular traffic connection to Perth has been taken over by the Stirling Bridge, the much-reduced traffic using the historic bridge has helped to keep the North Fremantle’s historic centre accessible and to date a viable local hub of commercial and social activity;the bridge acts as an important entry point and gateway to Fremantle: on the approach to Fremantle by the bridge, the closed vista of Cantonment Hill and the Signal Station, the Fremantle Port to the right and Swan River to the left, all the iconic urban features and Fremantle icons, create an exceptional landscape setting, reinforcing the city’s identity as the historic landmark of Western Australia;

the proposed bridge could potentially relieve the historic bridge of the vehicular traffic altogether and let it act as the vital pedestrian/cyclist link with Fremantle proper. There are numerous very successful examples around the world of saving the historic bridges from demolition. And while building new bridges to take on the modern essential role of carrying the vehicular traffic, many cities conserved the old bridges utilising them for the ancillary (mainly pedestrian) purposes. The most famous examples include the Burt Bridge in San Francisco, the Brooklyn Bridge on New York’s East River, Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Pont du Gard in France, Chenguyang Inmud and Rain Bridge in China etc. Each of them was replaced by a new bridge while being preserved for new functions. The same could be done in Fremantle, as freeing the Fremantle Bridge from vehicular traffic would facilitate its proper restoration as the pedestrian/cyclist bridge;

However, the plan in Brad Pettitt’s blog doesn’t show where the new bridge’s roadway goes. Would it go through the North Fremantle old centre? It looks very likely. Would this result in some massive demolitions of the heritage buildings on its way? That would be the death not only to the old bridge but to the North Fremantle historic centre as well. The Fremantle bridge’s traditional role as a gateway and the significant connection between North Fremantle and Fremantle proper via Queen Victoria Street would be destroyed. That is a devastating prospect and should be stopped.

In addition, I would like to clarify the broader issue regarding the increase in antisocial behaviour, theft and generally a major degradation to the Fremantle social fabric and economic viability.

The decade-long push to abandon the previously measured and harmonious development of the city with heritage as its driver (as evident in the West End, Wray Avenue precinct, South Fremantle), and to replace it with this major disruption by the out-of-scale, developer-driven, massive, inconsiderate, badly-planned, badly-designed and expensive developments in the heart of the city is, in my opinion, the main cause of the increase in crime in the city.

Any major change is disruptive. The long term businesses lose confidence in the strategic prospects. As the disruption continues, the community at large starts to lose the commitment to the city and each other (remember what has happened to Fremantle Markets? Fremantle Police? Fremantle Hospital?); thousands of local investors and businesses begin to feel uncertain about the future and where Fremantle is going; the loyalty and ethical behaviour towards the city and each other declines, and the ‘undesirables’ of all kinds begin to fill up the void.

They feel encouraged by the lack of social cohesion to move in and began to steal, grab and generally make the city environment unsafe.

20 May 2020

Bridge of Broken Promises

Main Roads has $130 million available for a new Fremantle bridge and soon will announce their plans.

But will we get a bridge of broken promises like we did 15 years ago when, ahead of the State Election, Planning Minister Alannah MacTiernan promised to save the old traffic bridge, and ditched that after winning the election on the grounds of cost? Alannah is still a hard working, dynamic politician, but has much to answer for in Fremantle, having denied community and council opposition against high rise ING on Victoria Quay, handed the Royal George Hotel to the National Trust without consulting East Fremantle Council (look at that mess now), and ditched her promise about our bridge.

The community and Fremantle Council have made their views known repeatedly – keep the existing bridge, whether we get a new one or not.

North Fremantle Cr Thompson (2005): “Extension of the life of the current bridge should be the first priority.”

North Fremantle Convenor Gerry MacGill (2005): ” Main Roads has some of the country’s best timber conservation specialists.”

CEO of National Trust Tom Perrigo (2008): “The bridge is sound and shouldn’t be touched.”

The images above show the opening program for the current bridge in 1939. Because it was thought the Japanese might bomb Fremantle, the previous bridge as seen on the right in the two photographs was kept (until 1949). In fact Fremantle also had two traffic bridges back in 1898 when a second bridge was built alongside the then existing 1866 bridge, and the two co-existed for some years.

Next month Main Roads will propose a new bridge, leaving the current one in place until the new one is built. Then, for ”cost and safety” reasons, Main Roads will want to demolish the current timber bridge. The Fremantle Society at its recent meeting voted that: “The existing heritage listed Fremantle Traffic Bridge must be kept.”

We are yet to see what Main Roads will propose for a new bridge. Will we get something iconic for that large sum of money ($130 million, a lot more than the $30 million proposed in 2005), or a dreary concrete bridge like so many others? Main Roads has a poor reputation with unsightly urban design, as any intersection in WA will attest, and the damage to the heritage values and aesthetics of the current bridge railings by Main Roads some years ago needs to be undone.

The Fremantle Traffic Bridge has the highest State heritage rating, because it is of significance. If there is no future for trucks and vehicles on the bridge, it can continue to exist for pedestrians and cyclists.

As former Fremantle Council Heritage Architect, and current Fremantle Society Committee member Agnieshka Kiera said in 2005: “The major guiding principle of conservation is to extend the economic life of a significant place for as long as possible.”

No more broken promises.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society
images: Dowson collection

References and Links

Fremantle Stuff page for the proposed bridge.

Garry Gillard | New: 25 May, 2018 | Now: 20 August, 2020