PLANS for the Goulburn Health Hub at Bradfordville have been deferred by Council, pending the completion of an Employment Lands Strategy by its planning staff.
The matter may not come back for discussion until next March.
The wait has left proponents reeling. They have claimed the decision “defied logic” and said it could hold the proposal up for another six months, meaning the loss of a significant investor in the project.
The decision by Goulburn Mulwaree Council at last Tuesday’s meeting has generated a wider debate on whether local industrial land has lost its value over the last decade.
A report to the meeting by the council’s strategic planning manager, Emma-Jayne Leckie recommended the project’s deferral pending completion of the strategy.
She argued that the inclusion of a hospital in the proposed health precinct required a change of zoning from IN1 general industrial to SP2 (health services facility).
The report stated the decision on whether to establish a health hub on the site needed to be “carefully weighed against the potential loss of industrial land”.
“The best way to do this is through the Employment Lands Strategy. Following the completion of the Strategy, the council will be much better placed to make informed decisions about the future of the Bradfordville industrial area and this proposal,” the report read.
“This sort of assessment is necessary in order to fully examine the potential land use conflict issues that may result from location of a health precinct in an operating industrial estate.
“...These decisions are best informed through an overall Council strategy, not a landowner-driven assessment.”
The council granted deferred commencement consent for the Goulburn Health Hub on July 2, 2013 subject to conditions
THE Health Hub conditionally approved in July, 2013 was primarily a multi-faceted complex including a medical centre, consulting rooms, day surgery and childcare centre.
A deferred commencement consent for a Section 96 modification to this development was also granted by the council on June 19, 2014.
The modifications were: the removal of the childcare centre; relocation of the day surgery; addition of an allied health facility (rehabilitation clinic) and dental services to the medical centre; expansion of the pharmacy and cafeteria; increasing the parking area; staging of the development and other minor layout changes.
The modified development was approved in two stages. Stage one included the medical centre, cafe and pharmacy. Stage two included the day surgery accompanied by specialist and radiology treatment rooms.
Construction has not commenced on any of the approved development.
The project’s representatives, Cullingral Pty Ltd, addressed councillors in open forum at the start of the meeting.
The family superannuation company is controlled by financier and district property owner, Wallace Ashton and his daughter, Sophie Ashton.
Local real estate agent Peter Mylonas and local accountant Grant Pearce also spoke.
Ms Ashton said she was only made aware of the need for the employment land strategy in August.
“The need for this strategy about the loss of industrial land at Bradfordville is not relevant to our proposal,” she said.
She said the land was not zoned Industrial until 2000. “Not one bit of interest in it has been shown in the last eight years. We have financial backing now so I am asking councillors not to defer this and let it take its natural course,” she said.
Her father, Wal Ashton, said “you need to sell the dream.” “We are we are trying to start an industry, not retail, not real estate, it is high risk and when you get your chances in life you take them,” he said.
“We need doctors to bring patients. It is competitive, but if we win, the city will win too,” he said.
Mr Mylonas said from a real estate perspective the city is “buzzing” but not with industrial land.
“There is momentum, the housing market is good, commercial real estate is good, but the industrial sector here is in a coma,” he said.
He detailed industrial land sales going back to 2008, saying it was a disaster. “Paclib, Eureka, Mycorp and the Ross St proposals have all gone into receivership,” he said.
“This land is unproductive and will sit there for five to 10 years to come, but here is an opportunity to make this barren land come alive. It will draw people, meet needs and bring more professional people to the city. If you defer this you are telling people - don’t invest in Goulburn.”
Local accountant Grant Pearce stated that the Ashton family were his clients. He claimed the development was needed in Goulburn.
“I have been here for 22 years and not a great deal has happened,” Mr Pearce said.
“We have the opportunity here to make Goulburn the health hub for the region.
“People go outside for eye surgery and to see specialists. We can do this here rather than have people go to Canberra or Sydney. The employment opportunities are fantastic.
“Governments don’t have enough money to build fast trains or a $500 million hospital, so the government may be able to build more medical facilities if this goes ahead, maybe even a new hospital.”
IN discussion at the meeting, Cr Margaret O’Neill said it was not just Goulburn but the whole Australian economy that was “in the doldrums.”
“We have industries coming to Goulburn and we have been negotiating with lots of interested parties,” she said.
“Council has been working hard for the community, but we have to do it properly.”
She also disputed that land was zoned industrial in 2000, saying it was actually zoned industrial in the 1990s.
There was no other discussion and the motion was carried.
After the meeting, Ms Ashton said she was “very confused” by the decision.
“Their voting pattern was confusing,” she said. “Most of those who voted against us (six out of nine) hardly made their hand visible. It was not a vote of conviction or confidence.
“It seemed as though their decision had already been made before they came to the meeting. Our elected representatives are supposed to have people’s concerns at heart, they are supposed to vote with logic and for decisions that favour growth in Goulburn.
“Instead, they have opted to block it. We’ve made every effort to understand their reasons, without success. We encourage you to ask your local councillor - why?”
Ms Ashton said her company would now seek a Pre-Gateway Determination with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.