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Bridge Campaign

Web log entries by the Fremantle Society:

26 October 2020

Get out your pencil and design a new bridge

Design Your New Bridge

The top image was sought by the Fremantle Society from local architect Matt Wallwork, and shows a retained heritage listed wooden bridge converted to pedestrian and cyclist use featuring market stalls, and on the right a combined new road and rail bridge with the rail running underneath. This design is not the offical position of the Fremantle Society. It is just an idea by a clever local architect, and we all need to be involved in this process of getting the best bridge possible. Some of the world's best bridges like the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge were built in the depths of the Depression of the 1930s when people came together and worked together to get the funds and the impetus to build iconic structures.

The second image is one of the most highly rated bridges in the world, by Juscelino Kubitschek. Its cost when built 17 years ago was $75 million, much less than the $230 million allocated for the new Fremantle bridge. AND the Kubitschek bridge is 6 TIMES as long as the proposed new Fremantle one.

The design of the Kubitschek bridge is relevant to Fremantle for those interested in representing Aboriginal history, as the design can be seen to reflect the mythical Waugal, said to have created the Swan River.

Why can't we have a world class new bridge? A fitting entry statement to Fremantle is possible if the government stops rushing this project, and if the community step up.

Members may be interested to know about the all day stakeholder meeting held last Friday by Main Roads concerning the proposed new Fremantle traffic and rail bridge.

Initially scheduled for the Tradewinds Hotel, until the Fremantle Society pointed out that the hotel was a quarantine centre for Covid, it was transferred to the Esplanade Hotel, though that didn't stop one community member coughing over her neighbours all day in a crowded non socially distancing room.

There were only a few, unpaid, community members. The room was full mainly of $500 a day mayors like Dr Pettitt and engineers, and staffers from politicians. It was very well run by Nicole Lockwood from the Port Taskforce.

There was confusion in the room even at the end of the day about what the $230 million would cover and what it couldn't, and whether a new rail bridge was needed at all given we are told the port will be moving to Cockburn as soon as 2032.

But the Fremantle Society has a major news story exclusively for you later this week about why the new port CANNOT be moved to Cockburn Sound.

Main Roads want to demolish the heritage listed traffic bridge and build a boring concrete one 4 metres from the Northbank apartments. They say the lovely current bridge costs $400,000 a year to maintain (a not unreasonable sum for a bridge that carries 24,000 vehicles a day, strangely down from the 28,000 a day in 2005). 

Main Roads want to build a new bridge upstream of the current one as they say there is not enough room on the downstream side, but by the end of the day it seemed the message from the community was loud and clear about the need to build downstream. Attendees were asked to put little post it notes on the various options on the tables - the Main Roads option, along with highly selective options from their 2006 public consultation, omitting the option to save the existing bridge, Council's option for a downstream new bridge and possible saving of existing, and Andrew Sullivan's very downstream solution wiping out berths but solving various North Fremantle traffic problems, while saving only some of the existing bridge. There was a sense that the Sullivan model, while worthy, was too much of a big picture solution that would take years and years of planning.

If enough political pressure can be put on Labor politicians, it is possible the new bridge could be built downstream instead of upstream, and even our current bridge could have a future for pedestrians and cyclists. Fremantle Council were previously told the alignment positions were fixed, but on Friday Main Roads agreed to put other options to the Minister. 

The Fremantle Society will continue to push for the retention of the fabulous heritage bridge which has served us so well, and for a high quality new bridge.

The key person is Rita Saffioti, Planning Minister.

3 October 2020

SOB SOB (Save our Bridge) and SOS SOS (Save our Square)


Above is from the latest Fremantle Herald.

Sob sob, the news is not good, but thank goodness next week Fremantle Council will hold a meeting with Main Roads and others to discuss the bridge issue.

A key person at the meeting will be retired Main Roads engineer Lloyd Margetts, who had 35 years experience with the Fremantle Traffic Bridge and knows more about wooden bridges in Western Australia than probably anyone else.

The Fremantle Society has spoken to Mr Margetts and other engineers, and there is no doubt the issues around the bridge are complex, but solvable.

It didn't help when the Liberal Party under Richard Court got rid of much of the Main Roads expertise and in house ability to fix and maintain wooden structures. The privatisation of so much Main Roads work has led to a massive blow out in maintenance costs with one engineer claiming that outside companies are at times charging "ten times" what the in house cost would have been. This is impacting the ability of Main Roads to organise for the orderly maintenance of our bridge and other timber bridges. The Fremantle Society heard yesterday that the Guildford Association is alarmed to find that Main Roads are trying to claim that the Guildford wooden heritage bridge, even older than ours, is only heritage listed up to the waterline.

The other thing that doesn't help the Fremantle Traffic Bridge is that the rail bridge was put in the wrong place. Thinking that the traffic bridge would soon be demolished, the rail bridge was built without careful regard to lining up the spans for navigation.


Save Our Square - just when you thought the dramas and tragedies and wastefulness of King's Square was coming to an end, the council is advertising in this weeks Herald to change the name of the Square.

King's Square and Queen's Square were named in 1833 as part of the Regency planning for our town. Those names should not be messed with because of political ideology seeking to wipe out our "shameful past" as some councillors see it. 

When suggestions were made months ago by councillors that King's Square should be renamed Midgegooroo Square in honour of a man who murdered four people in cold blood, Cr Pemberton said "Well Captain Fremantle was a child rapist" - a false claim that has deeply offended the Fremantle family and many others.

Please go to Have My Say on Fremantle Council's website and have your say on this sickening ideology in a world famous heritage town.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society

Please call John Dowson on 0409 223622 if you want copies of any of our reports or if you wish to volunteer or donate to our work.

1 October 2020

The Port, the Quay and the Bridge

SOP, SOQ, and SOB, again

Huge issues for Fremantle don't loom on the horizon - they are here now.

As reported recently, three of the big issues are - the future of the port, the future of Victoria Quay, and the future of the historic Fremantle traffic bridge.

Hence SOP (Save our Port), SOQ (Save our Quay), and SOB (Save our Bridge).

The front page of the Herald this week tells the story of what is proposed for historic Victoria Quay - buildings of at least 25 metres height for a private film business, when privatisation is the last thing a public heritage asset like Victoria Quay needs. While one of the politicians deeply involved is Alannah MacTiernan as Minister for Ports, the other is shown above singing away in Parliament, the clown David Templeman, who as Minister for Local Government has pursued a vendetta against Liberal leaning councils, as Heritage Minister has failed to inject money into heritage or look after government heritage properties, and as Arts Minister has overseen the destruction of the Premier's Book Awards as part of his revisionist ideology.

With the community cowered with Covid, and developers cosing up to government far too closely, to help spend the billions to be spent for "revitalisation" (something Fremantle has just suffered 10 years of under the developer friendly Fremantle Council), a crisis of accountability looms.

As Dr Honey, the Member for Cottesloe, told the Fremantle Society recently: "WA Inc 2 is on the cards".

The Fremantle Society wants development in Fremantle, but for it to follow good planning policy.

The Fremantle Society received a letter today from the special advisor for the Planning Minister Hon Rita Saffioti stating why the heritage listed traffic bridge will be demolished, despite millions spent on it recently.

If there was leadership at Fremantle Council to save the bridge, we would have a chance to save it, as the community does not have the money to employ an engineer for an independent report. The bridge also needs an independent heritage report. The Planning Minister proudly announces in her letter that Element WA is being employed by Main Roads to "develop the concept design and develop the heritage interpretation strategy." That is the same group who, as TPG, were involved in controversial proposals in Fremantle, and are setting off alarm bells in other suburbs.

Please remind Fremantle Council to do something:

Fremantle Society committee member Agnieshka Kiera was so incensed at the Minister's letter she penned the following response, which is quoted verbatim:

So Main Roads is considering retaining the useless 19m long stump of the existing bridge (maintenance of which will cost money) as a token gesture towards heritage. And to provide pedestrian and cyclist facilities on the new bridge (which would add considerably to the cost of the new bridge), instead of doing the right thing by the government's own heritage act and well-defined conservation standards i.e. to restore the existing bridge for pedestrian and cyclists and build the new bridge for vehicular traffic only! The latter permitting not only to reduce the cost of the new bridge but allowing its visual presence to be less impacting in the already crowded with bridges river crossing. It's such a typical WA ignorant approach to heritage! Treated heritage like a burden and creating these ridiculous situations where the facade of a historic building is retained as a dummy screen to 'hide' the 20 stories hideous development behind - the norm of heritage treatment in Perth. For Godsake, is there anyone in WA, who reads and acts in accordance with the Government's own heritage legislation and policies, let alone the Burra Charter???? Anyone who treats heritage as an asset, including good economic sense and with the dignity and respect it deserves?

We have done it in Fremantle with the Old Port, where the heritage added another dimension and interest to the former Port's dump! And we have created a unique public reserve that would serve the community in the years to come as a valuable public space the city so desperately needed! And provided a stimulus to the economic development of the former Co-op building and added to the economic viability of the Fishing Boat Harbour and the Little Creatures! We have restored the former ruin that was the Moores building! Not only we saved its heritage we have also created a viable and tenable, income-generating property that also serves as the community asset and which has acted as the catalyst for others to follow in setting up eateries and other businesses in the West End with heritage as a driver! Not only Bread in Common but also other new businesses in Bannister, Nairn, Pakenham Streets and High Streets! We used heritage as a market advantage to add interest and attract other businesses to the area!

For godsake, it's so exasperating ..... this wall of heritage ignorance and economic irresponsibility in Perth!

Great to see some passion. Time for members to show some passion also. There is more to life than Covid and Covid.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society
1 October, 2020
0409 223622

17 September 2020

SOB (Save Our Bridge), SOP (Save Our Port), SOQ (Save Our Victoria Quay)

C.Y. O'Connor - where are you when we need you?

With State Government politicians on steroids, having saved us from Covid, and wanting to urgently spend billions of dollars they don't have, they have rolled through parliament the Planning and Development Amendment Bill 2020, giving them power to push ahead very quickly with pet projects.

This will be evident in the heart and soul of our heritage town with the moving of our port, pushing high rise development of Victoria Quay, and the proposed demolition of the much loved timber traffic bridge.

The raison d'être for Fremantle, its port, is moving in just 12 short years, in a move that has no large scale visible support, led by a Minister (Alannah MacTiernan) who over a decade ago was trying to shovel high rise ING buildings all over Victoria Quay as Planning Minister. The capable CEO of the Port is suddenly leaving, and the community is left to fight on three fronts - to SOB (Save our Bridge), SOP (Save Our Port) and SOQ (Save our Victoria Quay).

The Fremantle Society wants our port to stay and continue to thrive, wants Victoria Quay to be developed as a low rise maritime related commercial precinct as detailed in the Fremantle Waterfront Masterplan, and wants the historic timber traffic bridge to stay, whether a new bridge is built or not.

Breaking News

Another news story being broken by the Fremantle Society is the intention to build 25 metre high boxes on Victoria Quay for film studios. This idea arose some weeks ago, but wandered off to Jones Street, O'Connor, where the Mayor kindly offered to give away a $7.4 million ratepayer asset for nothing for years to the film industry. But apparently the developers (_ _ _ _) want ocean views and they are back at the port looking at Victoria Quay.

The idea doesn't work for two reasons:

a) Victoria Quay is a highly important heritage area twinned with its immediate neighbour the West End, where new development should be no higher than the existing iconic goods sheds.

b) Allowing large sheds for a film industry would be a privatisation of public space, the whole business being high security with little to no public access.

C.Y. O'Connor needs to get off his high pedestal, and chase Alannah out of town.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society
17 September 2020

Fremantle Society View: Save Our Heritage Bridge

Deep Concern for River Crossing Shown by Attendees at Town Hall Meeting

Bridge Open and Should Stay Open

The photo above is opening day for our heritage bridge, a survivor from 1939. Large crowds turned up.

Tonight, a large crowd turned up at the Town Hall to discuss the Main Roads proposal to demolish the heritage bridge and replace it with a dreary, standard, unattractive one.

The meeting was not a real town hall meeting encouraging discussion and input from the audience. The speakers were not allowed to be asked questions, and microphone owner Kavi Guppta shut down questions from the audience after a few minutes at 7pm, for a meeting that was supposed to run till 7.30pm.

The Fremantle Society has the following points to make which it couldn't make tonight:

a) The very large turnout tonight shows the extent of community concern at the way Main Roads is handling this project.

b) Main Roads has admitted to the Fremantle Society that the heritage wooden bridge can be maintained and kept, but they dishonestly keep claiming it was only ever built as a "temporary bridge."

It was built with an estimated life span of 40 years because Main Roads expected Fremantle Ports to push further up the river with a larger port, necessitating a new bridge. But, now that the port is heading south west to pollute the waters of Cockburn Sound, there is no need for extra room in the river.

c) When Main Roads demolished the wooden bridge in Mandurah a few years ago, they promised locals things that didn't eventuate, but that bridge was only two lanes wide compared with the Fremantle four lane one, and it was only listed as a level two heritage structure, whereas the Fremantle one is listed at the highest category possible: 1a.

The Mandurah mayor put $30,000 towards bridge events there. When will the Fremantle mayor commit serious funds to saving Fremantle's heritage bridge? After it is demolished? He has known about this issue for years and our wooden bridge is worth saving from being turned into firewood.

d) There are broader issues - dealing with Curtin Avenue traffic and traffic impacts on residents in North Fremantle, which give further reasons to pause the project and get it right - perhaps making the whole issue a Bicentennial project as suggested earlier.

e) What to focus on NOW: Urgently needed is an independent engineer's report showing the current state of the bridge, along with a conservation plan that looks at options for conserving it.

Main Roads are already in discussions with the Heritage Council to get demolition approval of the wooden bridge, and refuse to release their report to the public. Time is of the essence.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society
0409 22 3622

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

Bridge of Broken Promises.

Fremantle community wants new bridge involvement

Fremantle Council meeting agenda item, 24 June 2020, at the initiative of Mayor Brad Pettitt. The City:

1. Welcomes the Federal and State funding commitment of $230m for the Swan River Crossing project, a project that will see major infrastructure delivered that will have an asset life in excess of 100 years;

2. Adopts the following principles to assist with the City’s analysis and feedback to Government as the project unfolds and develops:

1. PLANNING – That the State Government provides clarity around how this project supports the long-term strategic planning scenarios for the region and how transport planning is fully integrated within this, and specifically how options will address:
• the recommendations of the Westport Taskforce in relation to the future of the Inner Harbour of Fremantle Port;
• land use, traffic, freight and passenger rail planning options for the areas on the north and south of the proposed new crossing;

2. ALIGNMENT & CONNECTIONS – That the new bridge alignment(s) are optimised in terms of:
• long-term planning scenarios;
• uninterrupted flow / connectivity of the state’s Principle Shared Path (PSP) to Fremantle and North Fremantle Rail Stations.
• low-speed cycling and pedestrian connectivity and amenity;
• cultural heritage and place-making, in particular, impact on Fremantle Traffic Bridge.

3. DESIGN – That the Swan River Crossing demonstrates excellence in design – delivering infrastructure through a multi-discipline design process that celebrates contemporary bridge design and creates a memorable gateway experience and a place for people.

4. HERITAGE – That a significant portion of the Fremantle Traffic Bridge is preserved at both ends – especially on the southern end – and adapted in a manner that:
• retains pedestrian and cycling functions on its top deck;
• retains a section over Beach Street, including its abutment and architectural embellishments;
• is activated, connected and generates a destination for people on the foreshore;
• remains an asset of the State Government.

5. CULTURE – That the Aboriginal significance of this rivercrossing/ location is clearly understood, respected and interpreted in the design and deliverables. This could be a major component of the % for Art program associated with this project.

6. PUBLIC REALM & PLACE – That all public realm either created or modified by this project is safe, attractive, connected and inviting – with the potential to be extended and further connected with future riverside enhancements and developments – specifically, that increased curtilage is created in front of the Naval Stores building on Canning Highway to assist with activating this building and connection to foreshore.

3. Requests that MRWA commence community engagement as soon as possible, and that this engagement process includes a full and transparent evaluation of design options and bridge alignments that respond to the principles noted above;

4. Determines a final position on the various aspects of the Swan River Crossing in light of the comments and results that arise during the community engagement process.

Fremantle Society blog: 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.

This map, supplied to the Fremantle Society Facebook page 5 June 2020 by Deputy Mayor Andrew Sullivan, contains a set of proposals for the replacement of the present Traffic Bridge, new train lines, and a realignment of the truck route to avoid the centre of North Fremantle.

Main Roads plans

Main Roads plans shows that the new bridge will be just a little to the east of the wooden one, will align with the same main road through North Fremantle, and will run into the same cliff face as the existing one on the Fremantle side, requiring road traffic to turn abruptly left or right as at present, in front of the 'heritage' shed.
A token stub of the wooden bridge will be retained and will probably have yet another cafe/bar on it.
Information about the project, and a much larger copy of the plan are available on a page on the Main Roads website.

References and Links

Fremantle bridges - page on this site.

Garry Gillard | New: 25 May, 2018 | Now: 27 October, 2020