On Sunday, I attended the first of the free summer music series at the Fremantle Arts Centre, along with about 700 other people. I think it is a useful and important comparison, when considering the temporary use of J Shed by Sunset events.
The Freo Arts Centre has a capacity of up to 900 people in the front courtyard, where the Sunday music is held. The major concerts held on the south lawn have a capacity up to 3500 people.This is more than double the proposed capacity of the proposed venue at J Shed.
The Arts Centre is also much closer to residents and has similar parking constraints. Plus it has similar operating hours, with all events finishing by 10pm.
Sunset Events plan to attract a similar audience (aged 25+) and host similar “mature” artists like Sarah Blasko, Missy Higgins and Paul Kelly in a family friendly environment. The Freo Arts Centre does not attract significant anti social behavior problems, like those some are claiming will inevitably occur at J Shed, because it is a well-managed venue that targets more mature patrons. I expect Sunset Events to operate in a similar manner. I also note that the Arts Centre is a significant heritage building. It is not being harmed by these events. In fact it is being experienced and enjoyed by many thousands of people.
On Sunday, I was sitting next to people from Woodvale (30km north they told me…) they are regulars at the Arts Centre gigs and travel to Freo for them often. This demonstrates the pulling power events like these in our town have, which supports local artists, businesses and builds community.
Locals I spoke with at the Arts Centre on Sunday and door knocking today thought a similar venue at J Shed would be a wonderful addition to Freo’s cultural landscape. Noting again that this would be less than half the capacity of the Arts Centre, which has a maximum capacity of 400 people and 1500 people just twelve times a year.
Some people have raised concerns about the legitimacy of allowing a temporary use prior to the permanent license is approved. I see this as a potential benefit. Firstly it will enable the strategic aims of the lease being realized sooner – that is creating an attraction that will support the Arts Hub and West End businesses.
Secondly, it will enable Sunset Events to be tested to see if they can deliver on the many criteria they are being asked to meet as part of this lease. This includes adhering to sound regulations, security and safety issues and compliance with the aims of the arts hub. You can’t imagine RGL providing Sunset Events with a permanent license for this venue if they are not responsible or don’t do a good job. Refusing a liquor license is far easier than withdrawing one – so this is an opportunity to ensure Sunset Events can deliver on their promise to our community.
THE DEVELOPMENT APPLICATION BEING CONSIDERED
I have moved a number of amendments that seek to address some of the key concerns raised:
1. Reduce capacity for 12 x large events to 1000 people (only a little more than the front courtyard events at the Freo Arts Centre)
2. The performance criteria set out in the lease agreement forms part of this approval and must be met as part of the temporary use
3. The risk management plan must include consideration of people attempting to view events from the cliff top
4. Sunset will be required to liaise with the J Shed tenants regarding any artwork in the area and any temporary removal will be at the cost of Sunset Venues.
5. Temporary fencing erected for events must be removed by 9am morning after
6. No more than 6 food stalls / vans to operate in the area at any one time
I also have concerns about the lack of vehicle access and a satisfactory solution is yet to be found. I do not support any vehicle access from Mrs Trivett’s Lane and also have concerns about the Whaling tunnel being used for regular vehicle access to the venue. I am considering an amendment that would make this a condition.
I am also concerned about the uncertainty about the entry point for these events – given the potential impact on adjoining neighbors. If no permanent entry is proposed as part of these plans, I would like to add a condition that says “The public entry must be at least 10m from the Western wall of the shed and access doors into other tenants units”.
It is also important to note, the DA for the temporary use does not include any physical changes or alterations to the shed and there will be no removal of existing vegetation. There will be no permanent fencing of the Reserve. Temporary fencing will only apply during events where a liquor license has been approved (as a requirement of Liquor Licensing) or during major ticketed events (as approved by the event application and process).
I believe that the strategic aim behind this proposal – to create a significant attractor that would bring new and repeat visitation to Arthur’s Head via the West End – is a good one. For too long businesses in the West End – the former beating heart of our CBD – has been struggling. The Retail Model Plan (2010) identified the need for an “anchor” attraction(s) that would generate repeat visitation from all over Perth (and beyond) to the West End. It is with this in mind the EOI was issued for unit 1 at J Shed. We also wanted to make the area an ‘Arts Hub’ that would showcase the city’s diverse creative and cultural assets. Sunset Events will need to meet criteria to deliver these outcomes as well as the commercial aims for our West End. We also want to see a nighttime economy returned to the historical centre of town – our beautiful West End.
The concerts at the Fremantle Arts Centre are popular, well managed and a great cultural attractor to Fremantle. If we can have a second, smaller venue in an equally iconic historic site that brings more families and mature music and art lovers to the west end I believe this will be a good thing for Fremantle. But we need to ensure it is well managed and respects existing tenants and neighbours, which is why I’ve moved the range of amended conditions above.
The public comment during question time, debate in the chamber and the outcome of my amendments will help me to determine my final position on this matter, however I believe a good outcome for all is possible.