27/02/2020 - 10:28

Freo raises the volume on noise plan

27/02/2020 - 10:28

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The state government plan to shield entertainment venues from noise complaints is raising concerns in Fremantle, with claims the implementation of ‘special entertainment precincts’ may not address the complexities associated with the port city’s increasing density.

Freo raises the volume on noise plan
Proposed special entertainment precinct laws may not cover venues such as Mojo’s. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

As Fremantle residents and entertainment venues face the prospect of increasing noise complaints, some are claiming the proposed legislation fails to adequately deal with the issue.

The state government plan to shield entertainment venues from noise complaints is raising concerns in Fremantle, with claims the implementation of ‘special entertainment precincts’ may not address the complexities associated with the port city’s increasing density.

The proposed legislation, outlined as part of a Department of Planning position statement released last November, includes the introduction of zones that would allow venues within defined boundaries to operate above regular noise limits.

Those proposals were open to public comment until mid-February, with a reform package to be finalised soon, according to the department.

While that regulation would go some way towards alleviating the burden on venues to respond to complaints, questions remain over the details, as well as which establishments would be protected by the precinct laws.

City of Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt is among those calling for greater clarity. While he supports the push for new regulation, Dr Pettitt said laws that only protected venues in specific zones could threaten the city’s ambition to have a diverse mix of land use.

Depending on the size and location of these proposed precincts, Dr Pettitt said venues such as Mojo’s and Freo.Social might not be protected, as they fell outside of areas traditionally thought of as entertainment precincts.

“If we are going to have vibrant centres, we need these protections in place that can ensure entertainment venues, live music venues and the like don’t get forced out through the process of gentrification,” Dr Pettitt told Business News.

“With the way they’re framing this law, though, it may not cover places like North Fremantle with venues like Mojo’s that have been there quite a long time.

“They’re not [in] a precinct; there’s not a concentration of live music, perhaps in the way the regulators focus on.”

Dr Pettitt stressed the issue was not wholly specific to Fremantle, with The Rosemount Hotel, located in North Perth, being another popular venue that may fall outside of an entertainment precinct.

Maintaining a diverse mix of residential property and entertainment precincts, however, is integral to Fremantle’s commercial future, Fremantle Chamber of Commerce chief executive Danicia Quinlan told Business News.

“Mojo’s and Freo.Social have precedent set; they’re assets that need protection,” Ms Quinlan said.

“There needs to be flexibility for those iconic venues to maintain what they offer to the community as well as local industry.

“I think these laws need to be precinct focused, but with flexibility to recognise those iconic venues.”

Venue owners who spoke to Business News expressed mixed opinions on the proposals.

While the Rosemount Hotel, which is owned by FJM Property, could be affected by the introduction of special entertainment precincts, managing director Jamie Fini said the group was supportive of the proposed laws and the support they would provide the state’s live music venues.

But Andrew Ryan, managing director of Mojo’s owner Cool Perth Nights, said a lack of legal protections for venues made operating the pub difficult, citing the costs associated with responding to objections from local residents.

“I spent more than $50,000 soundproofing Mojo’s because of one complainant that moved there recently,” Mr Ryan told Business News.

“No-one else [residents] had a problem, but the law is on their side.”

Mr Ryan said one issue that could be resolved was changing the method by which noise complaints were currently measured, for example that sound must not exceed a certain limit on the outside of a residence.

“It stands to reason that if someone moves to an area that has had its value underpinned by the value of live music … then they must concede that they need to close their windows, rather than have them all open and complain,” he said.

“It’s not a stretch to want to record audio levels inside as opposed to outside the home.”

Dr Pettitt said the council had already formulated suggestions to address concerns with the proposed laws, echoing Mr Ryan’s suggestions that existing venues should be protected ahead of new residential builds.

One solution he proposed was agreements with developers to use double-glazing when constructing new apartments, arguing that would alleviate noise concerns for residents looking to move into an active, urban environment.

“That’s just smart design,” Dr Pettit said.

“That means we can create the kind of centre we want with mixed use that’s property diverse.

“It’s not just something where the onus should be on the venue, but [there should be] some shared responsibility on new developments alongside it.”

Nuanced solutions would be paramount, Dr Pettitt said, recognising that the challenge going forward would be balancing the business interests of local venues with the concerns of residents who are integral to the city’s growth.

“One of Freo’s great challenges is that we’re trying to quadruple the number of residents,” he said.

“The last thing we want are thousands of people moving in only to see the things that attracted them here closing down.

“The best of Fremantle will be a place that has thousands of new downtown residents, but retains the great entertainment venues that make it an attractive place.

“With the right kind of regulation in place and flexibility around those, you can do that.”

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