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McGowan urged to spend big to save South Freo Power Station

Debate about the South Fremantle Power Station is reigniting, with calls split between demolishing the decrepit heritage-listed building or tipping tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to save it.

Kerry Strokes’ private investment company Australian Capital Equity this week pulled out of buying the 6ha site from Synergy after due diligence found the cost of remediation, decontamination and infrastructure upgrades exceeded $70 million.

Writing in Saturday’s The West Australian, City of Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett makes the case for the McGowan Government to commit funding for remediation in much the same way it’s spending $60 million to clean-up the East Perth Power Station.

He said a coordinated approach from State agencies and appropriating funding for remediation and rehabilitation of the building and its surrounds would incentivise the site’s redevelopment.

“This is a one-off opportunity to realise its huge potential as a key regional employment hub creating more than 800 jobs, generating 9,500sqm of retail and commercial floor space, and potentially delivering more than 700 dwellings,” Mr Howlett writes.

“The Cockburn coast stretches from South Beach to Port Coogee. Ultimately it will rejuvenate 98 hectares of former industrial land and become home to some 12,000 people in 6,000 homes over 20 years.”

Camera IconCockburn Mayor Logan Howlett Credit: Mogens Johansen/The West Australian

The South Fremantle Power Station, which is riddled with concrete cancer and has a severely corroded steelwork structure, has sat empty for 37 years, longer than period it operated between 1951 and 1985.

It’s understood there has been no serious discussions inside the Government about what to do with the site since Synergy was notified of ACE’s withdrawal from a conditional sale contract this week.

One option is to transfer ownership to Development WA, the agency overseeing the remediation at East Perth Power Station ahead of a planned redevelopment by ACE and Andrew Forrest’s Tattarang.

Former premier Colin Barnett, who as energy minister in the 90s tried to find an alternative use for South Fremantle Power Station, said the Government should knock-down the building to improve public access to that stretch of the coast.

“To try and save that building and find a use for it, like accommodation or commercial space, would probably cost tens and tens of millions of dollars. As much as I tried and others have tried to find a use, I don’t think it’s possible,” he told Perth radio.

“It’s ugly, it’s got graffiti all over it, it’s falling apart and it cuts off access to the public to what is a really unique part of the beach along that Cockburn Sound area.

“I’m not saying you should sell it off to property developers, but I think the Government probably won’t get anywhere so my suggestion is rather than having this falling-down an eyesore — destroy it, get rid of it and then find a better use to give public access to that beautiful little piece of coastline.”

Mr Logan, however, said demolition — which might not be possible due to the building’s heritage status — would mean the “loss of yet another unique part of Western Australia’s history”.

“It is one of only four cathedral-style power stations remaining in the world and the only one located in a coastal setting. It has the potential to become an iconic development, similar to the Battersea Power Station in London,” the Mayor said.

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