25/05/2004 - 22:00

A past worth revisiting

25/05/2004 - 22:00

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FOLLOWING extensive community consultation, the master plan for the Fremantle Prison Heritage Precinct is awaiting formal approval before redevelopment of the site can get under way.

A past worth revisiting

FOLLOWING extensive community consultation, the master plan for the Fremantle Prison Heritage Precinct is awaiting formal approval before redevelopment of the site can get under way.

Fremantle Prison is Australia’s largest convict-built jail, and only ceased operating as a prison in November 1991. The facility opened shortly after as a tourist attraction.

The prison is a well known and iconic feature of Fremantle’s history, and the master plan created by Palassis Architects is aimed at harnessing the cultural and heritage value of the site.

The sensitive heritage nature of the site led to extensive consultation with the community by a team of consultants.

Palassis Architects director of heritage, Nerida Moredoundt, said the project was a collaborative team project and that the consultation process undertaken was one of the most extensive and thorough ever undertaken in Western Australia.

“There was a fantastic community consultation process which helped to develop the master plan based on community and expert views,” Ms Moredoundt told WA Business News.

“We had interstate and overseas experts consulted, and focus groups, which discussed all aspects of the prison.

“This varied from a children’s workshop where local school children drew their ideas for the site, to a crime and punishment focus group with Estelle Blackburn, author of the book about the life of John Button, who was detained at the Fremantle prison.”

The master plan divides the prison site into zones and suggests future uses to best develop the site as a tourist attraction.

One of the more unique recommendations is to open more than a kilometre of the tunnels beneath the prison to the public. The tunnels are located 20 metres underground and used to provide water needs for the city of Fremantle when its population was only 500.

Fremantle Prison executive manager Graeme Gammie said it was hoped the tunnels would be opened this summer.

“This is the most interesting new tourist product to hit WA in a long time. There is nothing else like it in Australia,” he said.

“Visitors will climb down a purpose-built ladder into small boats and be taken on a guided tour of the tunnels.”

The master plan calls for the investment of $3.3 million to enable the first steps of development, which include opening the tunnels, the gatehouse, entry complex and the forecourt to accommodate special events.

Income from the tunnel tours is forecast to generate $429,000 annually, with tours of the precinct projected to net an annual surplus of between $905,000 and $1.6 million by 2010.

No outside funding is needed to make the master plan work, as the prison is vested through the Department of Housing and Works, and has access to government capital funding.

The master plan also identifies significant opportunity for partnerships on a number of levels between government agencies and the private sector.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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