City of Fremantle trying to avoid concentration of food outlets in small areas

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt.
Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt.

CITY of Fremantle could soon wield more control over the location of new fast food outlets and restaurants in the city centre as it looks to avoid potentially harmful clusters of like businesses.

In the report to Wednesday’s planning committee, officers noted councillors had expressed concern over the potential negative effects a high number of fast food and restaurant outlets could have in a small area, citing a lack of diversity in what was being offered as a reason people could stop visiting.

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said the aim was to avoid concentrations of the same types of businesses, not to stop new food-related businesses from setting up shop.

“Encouraging a more diverse range of businesses is likely to bring more people to a wider range of city streets and make them more active, interesting places and hopefully, this also brings economic benefits to established and new businesses in these streets,” he said.

“The iconic Cappuccino Strip section of South Terrace would be treated as an exception under the policy due to the existing high concentration of restaurants and the unique role this area plays in Fremantle.”

Currently, applicants wanting to open a fast food or lunch bar outlet in the city centre do not need planning approval unless there are ‘works’ needed, such as a new shopfront, while restaurants do require approval.

If councillors agree later this month to draft a new local planning policy, all types of potential new food outlets would need approval before setting up shop, giving the city more control over their location.

Fremantle Chamber of Commerce chief executive Olwyn Williams said while clusters could be a good thing, complete domination by one type of business could become detrimental.

“Issues include not attracting a broad enough customer base to the area, and with no variety, losing customers as trends change, it is much harder to attract them back once gone,” she said.

“Having a balance of retail and hospitality is a good target to have, as is a balance between daytime and night time economy.”

The item will be back before council on September 28.

Why is retail changing?

New social, demographic and technological trends are leading to a much more challenging retail environment, according to a local university business lecturer.

University of Notre Dame school of business public relations co-ordinator Annette Watkins said today’s world was witnessing permanent changes to the way shoppers behave.

“The health of our high streets and town centres matters to us, they are the heartbeat of their local communities, but in many places the historic character embodied in their buildings, their range of uses and street patterns and layout have been put under pressure in recent years,” she said.

“Some argue that ultimately, the future of the high street means more choice, lower prices and better services, all factors likely to lead to the downsizing of physical space retailers unless they actively chase the modern consumer using technological developments.

“Consumers today have vastly different and sophisticated expectations of product, service and value and in such a rapidly changing environment, a combination of factors has meant that some retailers are left unable to react fast enough.”

“There is a change in the shopping experience and the connected customer will see benefits to diverse high streets.”