Midland MLA Michelle Roberts has thrown her weight behind a push by residents for Heritage Minister David Templeman to declare the town of Guildford a heritage precinct, following his decision this week to state heritage list Fremantle’s west end.
Mr Templeman announced the west end’s permanent inclusion on the State Register of Heritage Places on Tuesday and listing means private owners are now eligible to apply for Heritage Council grants of up to $100,000 to help with conservation works.
The move puts the west end of Fremantle’s buildings and streetscapes under the protection of the heritage act and the Guildford Association (GA) wants the same done for their town.
A tourism forum organised by the GA in October last year attracted more than 100 Guildford residents and nominating the whole town for State Heritage registration, or protection through an Act of Parliament, was the top priority.
In recent years, the town has become a battleground over heritage, as residents lobbied to rebuild the Guildford Hotel and are now fighting against a bid by McDonald’s to open a 24-hour drive through in the hotel’s carpark.
In March, residents told McDonalds to ‘burger off’ when 1000 pamphlets were delivered and two Facebook pages set up to keep residents informed of a community campaign rallying against the bid.
In April, planning minister Rita Saffioti quashed hopes she would introduce new laws, similar to The Swan Valley Planning Act, to protect Guildford against inappropriate development.
This month, signs have sprung up all over Guildford to signal greater heritage protection is needed for the 1829 settlement.
The initiative has come from GA member Andrew Kiely who said making Guildford a heritage-tourism precinct would benefit the whole state.
The GA has continued its appeal to the new State Government to urgently act to protect Guildford and Mrs Roberts is calling on the heritage minister to take the opportunity and make it happen.
She is also calling on the City of Swan to get behind the push, recognise what a unique asset Guildford is, and see the opportunities heritage listing the town can provide for jobs and tourism.
Mrs Roberts said listing the town would not freeze development, it would just require development to be consistent with Guildford’s character.
She said a heritage listing could be of enormous economic benefit to residents and business owners.
She said the City of Fremantle took a similar approach to its west end and, as a result, property values increased, and tourists have boosted the local economy.
Real estate agent John Harwood, who has sold properties in Guildford, Bassendean and Woodbridge for over 30 years said heritage was certainly an attraction for buyers considering Guildford.
“The economic benefit is that it’s a little heritage village that has managed to stay reasonably intact through the work of residents over the years,” he said.
“That’s why McDonalds shouldn’t be a consideration, and that’s why people pay the prices they do in Guildford.
“It’s not the same as other suburbs.”
GA president Barbara Dundas said Guildford was already recognised by the Australian Heritage Commission and National Trust of Australia, but not in any way by the State Heritage Office or Heritage Council of WA.
She said that omission put the town at constant risk of unsympathetic development, undermining its unique history and character and its potential as a heritage tourism destination.
Mrs Dundas said State Government recognition of Guildford was long overdue.
Mr Templeman said Mrs Roberts had made strong representations to him about progressing the heritage listing of Guildford and he wanted to achieve a strong heritage outcome for Guildford, which it deserved.
But he said he needed proven support this was wanted from the Guildford community.
“I recently announced the permanent registration of the west end in Fremantle – a process that was thorough and took more than six years to complete,” he said.
“I have met with the GA and I understand their passion; however, I need to be assured that there is strong support for such a proposal across the community.”
Mr Templeman said the strength of the historic announcement about Fremantle’s west end was that it had strong landowner, community, business and council support.