Developers of a health hub at Bradfordville have welcomed the clearing of another hurdle in their quest to fully realise the project.
Major parts of the $15 million Ross Street facility are already up and running, including an allied health centre, two GP practices, a specialist centre leased to Optimum Health Solutions, and a cafe. Pathology, a pharmacy and an ageless clinic will follow this year.
The developers, father and daughter Wal and Sophie Ashton (Goulburn Health Hub Pty Ltd), also have council approval for a day surgery. However, under existing zoning, they cannot accept overnight patients or build other aspects of the project, such as oncology and possibly, aged care and a mental health facility.
In November, 2015 the council decided to defer a decision on rezoning, pending finalisation of an employment land strategy.
Now the final Goulburn-Mulwaree Council commissioned Employment Lands Strategy has recommended part of the land be rezoned for the purpose. It would change it from general industrial to SP2 Infrastructure. Councillors at their December meeting endorsed the document’s recommendations, including that planners continue to assess the health hub proposal.
Authors HillPDA Consulting concluded the Health Hub had “planning merit in social and economic terms” and should be progressed in the short term.
Despite councillor concerns it would impact negatively on industrial land supply, the study found it would not have a significant effect given the slow take-up in recent time and future provision. The consultants said such facilities would be in demand as Goulburn’s population aged and the city moved to a more “service-based” economy.
While the draft report last August recommended the same action, the final report gives developers a concrete basis to proceed.
Ms Ashton said there was reason for hope.
“It still has to go back to council and then it has to be sent to the State Government for a gateway determination,” she said.
“But with the Employment Lands Strategy supporting the proposal, it would be difficult to knock back the gateway determination. It’s quite positive for us in that respect.
“...The rezoning opens the way for us to become a 24-hour hospital. It will be more of an organic growth, starting with day surgery and gradually expanding the repertoire. We are doing a lot of work on that at the moment.”
The company is talking to parties interested in providing health services as part of this stage. Genesis, providing specialised oncology services, is among them.
“We are potentially looking at aged care and mental health, which is another big area,” Ms Ashton said.
“It opens the door for those conversations. Things are changing in Goulburn and the need for health facilities such as ours is substantiated.”
The Ashtons have funded the project’s initial stages but say they don’t have the capacity to finance stage three, comprising the day surgery and other services. To this end they are talking to a “very interested investor” and presenting a business case.
They do not see the hospital as competing with Goulburn Base and a $120 million State Government funded redevelopment underway.
“I’ve always said that the best outcome is to work with Goulburn Base Hospital,” Ms Ashton said.
“The $120m is limiting and they won’t be able to do everything with that money. Rather than duplicating services I think we should achieve some additional facilities. I think having a private facility in Goulburn will be very good for the medical community because it attracts specialists interested in doing both private and public procedures.”
If the rezoning is approved, the Ashtons still have to lodge a development application, which will include traffic access via Brewer Street through Tully Park.
Ms Ashton expected the gateway determination to take six to nine months and hoped construction could start 18 months later.
The Employment Lands Strategy also recommended rezoning of other land in Goulburn and Marulan. It identified growth opportunities for the area in natural resources, such as quarrying, transport and logistics and motor sports.