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Linley Lutton

Fremantle Society mail to members:

9 January 2018: Vale Linley Lutton

The Fremantle Society extends its deepest condolences to Sue, Matthew, and Simon. Linley was not just a lovely person, but he had the rare ability to understand how urban design and planning should work, and to articulate clearly how to achieve good results. Linley will live on through his work.

Linley ran his own business as Urbanix Director of Urban Planning, was Adjunct Research Fellow, School of Earth and Environment, UWA, Unit Coordinator/lecturer, Urban Design for Planners, School of Earth and Environment, UWA, and Chair, City Gatekeepers – Advocates for Better Urban Planning.

Linley wrote reports for the Fremantle Society on King’s Square, Atwell Arcade Development, and 8 Pakenham Street Quest apartments, all ignored by the mayor and councillors.

Linley resigned as a member of the Fremantle Council’s Design Advisory Committee in December 2013 in dismay at how council handled major developments. This is a paragraph from his resignation letter:

Fremantle projects such as 8 Pakenham St, Point St and 85 Queen Victoria St are examples where I (and other DAC members) have been consistently expressing significant concerns about the projects from the initial presentation – to little avail. These projects simply advance through the system until they reach a crisis point. Another emerging example, which further confirms my sense of futility about the DAC process, is the Spicer site redevelopment. I and one other DAC member expressed concerns during the architect’s presentation about the poor relationship between the applicant’s proposal and the neighbouring Warders’ Cottages. Scale, materials and relationship with the public realm are the primary concerns. I notice in the most recent information sent to DAC members that the applicant makes no attempt at any level to address these critical issues. The applicant is going down the same path of ignoring DAC concerns.

Linley stated in another letter: There are three significant projects I will attest to where the DAC had very serious reservations and these projects have continued to go through the system at COF. At Victoria Park, projects causing major concern to the Design Review Committee would mostly be rejected. I sent this email in August 2013 regarding two projects. I have no idea if my concerns were properly recorded. The views are strongly expressed in this email but are consistent with the DAC committee discussions on both projects:

8 Pakenham Street (Quest apartments) and 81 Queen Victoria Street

These two projects are among the worst I have evaluated in many years. Each suffers from gross over development of their respective sites. In both cases the proponents have been uncooperative and have attempted to chip away with minor revisions without attempting to resolve the major problems.

What concerns me most is why both proponents felt it appropriate in the first instance to present such overdeveloped solutions. What message are they being given when they start the process? Why would a proponent think five storeys on the corner of Pakenham and Short Street would even be a possibility?

Both projects set poor precedents and if approved there will be no stopping others.

Unlike the DAPs, our role goes well beyond simply facilitating development. I understand the push to get development happening but not at any cost, surely!

I am not able to support either project in their current form.

Mediation with the mayor was sought and Linley wrote about that:

——– kindly arranged a mediation meeting between myself and Brad Petit a few weeks ago during which I was candid and open, as was —-, about many issues including the problems associated with Amendment 49.

Brad said he would set up a meeting with myself, himself, Andrew Sullivan and Phil St John to discuss the problems and I have never heard since.

I suspect he has met strong resistance to such a meeting.

Attached are my diagrams which show the impact of shadows on Point Street for at least two full months during winter. This applies equally to Queen Street or any street with a similar alignment.

Any good urban planner would never allow this to happen in an existing small-scale city centre.

My diagram showing how the situation is partly resolved by setting the buildings back is also attached.

Andrew Sullivan was the major driver of the building height changes and he misunderstood the serious shadow impacts caused by taller buildings.

Following my public comments on this issue he has tried to justify his work in several social media statements but he simply reinforces his ignorance and lack of experience with every utterance.

Following his resignation Linley continued his interest and involvement with Fremantle, speaking at public meetings and writing reports for the Fremantle Society. It was stressful for him and his supporters to see the lack of respect shown by council for his well articulated and sensible views.

Fremantle Society mail to members:

19 October 2017: Dr Linley Lutton

It is with great sorrow and distress that the Fremantle Society informs its members that Dr Linley Lutton, who has helped the Society so much, is gravely ill.

Dr Lutton, while leading a busy life teaching at UWA and running Urbanix Design, has given his urban planning expertise freely to the community in Fremantle and elsewhere. He sums up his philosophy in his LinkedIn profile:

Dr Lutton’s Philosophy
My professional life started as an architect, however in the mid 1990’s I studied Urban Social Geography and so started my journey down the path of urban planning. It took some time for me to find my core philosophy but once found I now see all of my work and teaching with great clarity. To me, human ecology is at the centre of good urban planning. City planning in Western Australia is moving rapidly from ‘planning for the good of the people’ to ‘planning to facilitate property development’. The community has no ability to appeal or object to planning decisions no matter how poor they are. Our Government makes short-term planning decisions based on political whim rather than sound planning principles. Much of the rest of the developed world is embracing the process of co-production where the community is fully involved in planning decisions while Western Australia moves in a more autocratic direction. People have the right to demand better of their city planners and architects. They have the right to live in an environment which provides the essential elements required for them to lead healthy, contented lives. In recent times I have begun to publically challenge the ill-conceived city planning ideologies and projects emanating from our Government planning and redevelopment agencies. On one hand, this puts me at odds with professionals, bureaucrats and politicians however on the other hand it puts me in synchrony with most of the community who are the real owners of the city. Few professionals are prepared to speak up and challenge the system and there is no joy in doing so. I feel it is irresponsible to remain silent when I see my city being ruined through poor planning. My great dream is to see our cities and towns full of soul and authentic character reflecting the spirit of people.

Dr Lutton’s Help to the Fremantle Society
Dr Lutton was an inaugural member of Fremantle Council’s Design Advisory Committee and resigned when it was obvious the committee was being subverted, and after the 5 storey Quest Apartments in Pakenham Street were approved. He subsequently wrote a report on the project to assess its effectiveness, calling the approval ‘possibly technically illegal.’

Before the Atwell Arcade development was approved he wrote on behalf of the Fremantle Society a 12 page assessment for councillors and staff, which was ignored, resulting in the destruction of the best remaining arcade in Fremantle, the destruction of adjacent gold rush roofscapes with the large glass office box, further damage to shopfronts, and a failure to deliver what was promised by the developer.

A perfectly good Point Street development scheme approved unanimously by the previous council, was torn up by Cr Sullivan and the mayor, resulting in years of delay and a mediocre outcome: The city has embarked on a massive, arguably unrealistic redevelopment program, and I witnessed the preparedness on many occasions by certain elected members to override the advice of independent design experts to ensure this program could at least appear to be proceeding. Point Street is a perfect example (Dr Lutton to Roel Loopers 2014).

When Dr Lutton resigned from the DAC his comments were dismissed by the mayor and no effort was made to sit down with Dr Lutton and learn from his concerns.

Dr Lutton wrote a report for the Fremantle Society on the value of King’s Square. It was likewise ignored.

Dr Lutton’s Thinking Allowed Herald 19/9/2014
FREMANTLE city council is misusing its planning scheme to facilitiate poor development outcomes in Fremantle’s heritage-rich West End precinct.

The development industry argument that heritage hinders commercial progress is alive and well and people who try to voice their concerns are labelled “negative”.

Two over-height and poorly designed developments have now been approved in the West End because developers claimed extra height is needed in this height–restricted area in order to achieve commercially viable developments.

For years, in Perth’s CBD, cynical developers have shoe-horned characterless buildings behind heritage facades and this approach is now being applied in Fremantle where approving authorities are jumping to support their initiatives.

It was deplorable to hear that in Fremantle recently the council, at a specially convened meeting, listened to a conga line of commercially-focussed people speaking in support of the redevelopment of Atwell Arcade while one lone figure tried in vain to remind the council of its responsibility to heritage conservation.

What is glaringly obvious here is the powerful influence—both negative and positive—that sense-of-place has on urban dwellers is not understood. The unique sense-of-place associated with heritage environments is highly valued in most Australian capital cities because it offers respite from otherwise utilitarian intensity.
Sense-of-place triggers strong memories, attachments and behaviours at community and personal levels.

Our very identities are shaped by sense-of-place. Fremantle’s West End precinct, regarded as Perth’s most valuable tourism asset, exhibits a sense of place found nowhere else in the Perth metropolitan area. This is largely due to its scale, streetscape and evocative architecture. Alarmingly, a pattern may be emerging which threatens the overall integrity of this very special place.

Inappropriate developments are now being approved in the West End by misusing a clause in the town planning scheme intended to protect Fremantle’s heritage character. The clause gives the council the capacity to vary any site or development provision, without limitation, in order to preserve heritage values.

However, it does not give the council carte blanche to disregard other broader aims dealing with a variety of issues including preservation of Fremantle’s character. Paradoxically, this powerful clause aimed at heritage preservation is being cherry-picked from a planning framework to facilitate developments which compromise heritage values.

There are two critical points here. First, the capability of a property to return a development profit is never a criterion used to assess development applications. Only in major urban redevelopment areas is it considered relevant.

Developers always push the envelope and in localities anxious to see development occur they will try to convince gullible decision-makers to accommodate greater demands. Regardless of how compelling a developer’s commercial argument may be it has no place in any development assessment process. It was highly inappropriate for Fremantle’s design advisory committee (DAC) to cite commercial capability as a reason to support the Atwell Arcade development. This is an issue well outside this DAC’s formal terms of reference. Additionally, there is nothing in Fremantle’s planning scheme which allows variations to site or development provisions to satisfy commercial capability.

Second, Fremantle councillors, and the DAC cannot work outside the totality of Fremantle’s planning framework, which comprises many interrelated documents thick with phrases such as: developments are to achieve an exceptionally high standard in terms of appearance; developments are to be distinctive befitting their location; and, developments are to complement and contribute to the community’s desired identity and character for Fremantle.

Additionally, the DAC must satisfy itself that a development promotes character by responding to and reinforcing locally distinctive patterns of development and culture. A third party objective assessment of the two approved projects would most likely conclude that neither satisfies the broad intent of many sections in Fremantle’s planning framework including the overall stated aim to protect and conserve Fremantle’s unique cultural heritage. The approvals could be open to challenge because they so obviously ignore many pertinent sections of Fremantle’s planning framework.

Precedent is everything in planning and the precedent is now set for increased heights and characterless modern buildings in the West End. Preservation of the community’s desired character for Fremantle, a clearly stated aim of Fremantle’s planning scheme, has been ignored in order to satisfy development-driven commercial gain. Future developers can now expect height increases anywhere in the West End, even when the design outcomes are perfunctory and the results are clearly visible from the surrounding streets. All they need do is maintain the building’s façade, which they should be doing as a matter of course in this precinct, make a few internal heritage preservation gestures and then propose whatever they like behind and above. In the process the West End’s overall cohesive scale and unspoilt sense of place is eroded.

The Fremantle community should think long and hard about its attitude to the West End because your elected members and their advisory committee are beginning the process of erosion and the character of this special place is not replaceable.

Planning a city is serious business, and Dr Linley Lutton is seriously good at it. The Fremantle Society will continue to remind people of the work he has done, which is still relevant to where we are headed.

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