As President of the Fremantle Society the loss of long-term retail from Fremantle’s High Street distresses me, but what distresses me more is the response from the Chamber of Commerce (Walkout Herald 25-6-11). The tired old mantra of blaming those who choose to promote Fremantle’s Heritage values is frankly way off target.
Let’s examine why these and previous businesses say they are leaving Fremantle’s High Street:
Reason # 1 given by businesses for their decision to leave was excessive rents. I am still hearing of huge unrealistic rent hikes all along the High Street, no wonder small businesses are saying enough is enough.
Reason #2 is said to be lack of customers. Is it such a surprise that customer numbers decline when the Chamber of Commerce is so effective at talking Fremantle down? None of these businesses said they chose to leave because of Heritage values promotion. I though Peter was beginning to understand the vital role our Heritage plays in Fremantle when he agreed to open the Chamber to the public in the recent Fremantle Heritage Festival Open Doors event sponsored by the Fremantle Society and the Fremantle History Society.
The Fremantle Society is rightly proud of its success in lobbying for Fremantle’s Social, Cultural and Built Heritage assets, and received both State and Local Government accolades for this in 2011. Perhaps if the Chamber of Commerce were to become as effective in lobbying for their constituents then Fremantle business would be in a better position. The Society is willing to assist the Chamber with that endeavour, because we believe the best device for sustaining Fremantle’s Heritage values is a vibrant city including a strong retail sector bringing the people with their spending power into Fremantle to enjoy and maintain our stunning streetscapes.
Peter, can I suggest that you stop scapegoating those in our community who promote Fremantle’s Heritage values for Fremantle’s current woes and listen to what those who have chosen to leave are saying; high rents and an economic downturn are the reasons. Our challenge for you is to lead the Chamber to focus on addressing those issues before we lose any more retail from our High Street.
Jon Strachan, President
The Fremantle Society