A 120-bed residential aged-care facility for Romsey has Macedon Ranges Council’s tick of approval as it progresses to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Councillors voted 5-3 in favour of the proposal, which aims to fill a void of services in the east but threatens to extend Romsey’s town boundary.
The SignatureCare facility would be built on 8.4 hectares of grazing land at the corner of Melbourne-Lancefield Road and Hutchinsons Lane.
The aged-care facilitator informed councillors earlier this month it had considered several other locations but there were no suitable alternatives within the town boundary.
Councillor Geoff Neil pushed for the facility’s approval, pointing to the strong need in the shire’s east.
“Every now and then a planning application crosses one’s desk that literally excites. For me this is one such application,” he said.
“The opportunity to replicate an aged-care facility in the east of the shire should be pursued with vigour.”
Cr Neil argued the proposed site was on the very edge of the town boundary and the broader benefits of the facility outweighed the negative. He gained the support of Crs Mark Ridgeway, Janet Pearce, Dominic Bonanno and Bill West.
While Cr West said the application “passes the pub test”, he emphasised “that approval should not in any way be seen as a green light for further development of such a scale to the north of Romsey”.
But not all were convinced.
Council officers advised refusal of the application based on land suitability, use, location outside the town boundary and neighbourhood/amenity impacts.
Mayor Jennifer Anderson argued the council should strongly consider planning implications.
“We all know that there is an ageing population and an increase in dementia … this isn’t opposition to an aged-care facility: this is on planning grounds. Is this the right location at this point in time?” she said.
Cr Anderson and Cr Rob Guthrie said the council was still undertaking a Romsey Structure Plan. They indicated community consultation so far had suggested no development should occur north of the current town boundary.
“The area to the north of Romsey has been recognised for having some of the best soil in this country,” Cr Guthrie said.
“Everything that I’ve seen over the last 18 years involved with council is that this area must be protected and that’s what the community has always wanted. There should be no development on this land other than agricultural development.”
Cr Guthrie said the application “fails miserably to comply with the council’s statement of planning policy”.
The application attracted eight submissions highlighting increased traffic, road safety, impacts on amenity and character, and loss of views and privacy.
SignatureCare has amended its initial plans, including addressing concerns of residents, but has not submitted these changes to the council. The council was forced to consider the original plan.
The application is subject to a VCAT appeal against the council’s failure to determine the matter within statutory timeframes.
A division recorded those in favour were Crs West, Ridgeway, Pearce, Neil, Bonanno, and those opposed were Crs Guthrie, Anderson and Moore. Cr Annette Death was absent from the meeting.