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Concerned residents taking childcare centre proposal to VCAT


Traf District News was present at the council meeting last year where a proposal for a childcare centre in School Road, Trafalgar was discussed, debated and then approved.

Three councillors voted for, two against and one abstained which resulted in a decision to grant a planning permit. But it doesn’t end there as objectors are taking the decision to VCAT for a hearing sometime after July.

At the council meeting, objector Debra Robson, who lives in the vicinity of the proposed childcare centre, presented many arguments against the proposal on behalf of 32 objectors. She had very limited time to speak and made a strong case, but wasn’t able to convince Councillors Firdous, Leaney and McCabe, who voted for the proposal. Councillors Wallace and Tauru voted against. While nearby residents are concerned their properties will decrease in value, they insist it is not a case of ‘not in my backyard’ citing a range of reasons why they believe the decision should be overturned.

Foremost of the objectors concerns is in regard to the safety of the children. It is on a very busy road which sees more than 370 vehicle movements a day and there is real concern about injury to children.

At six years of age, children have essentially no peripheral vision* which takes many years to fully develop and this presents added risk. The proposed centre has fifteen car parks which will be for the 14 staff members, residents are concerned there will be double parking, and reverse parking into School Road, presenting a real danger to very young children.

Additionally, the only access to the entry of the centre is via the carpark, creating an unsafe pathway for children and families. Before the vote in council last year Councillor Darren Wallace raised the carpark and traffic concerns declaring “It’s not going to be on my conscience, as a long-term Trafalgar resident, if anything terrible ever happens on this site.” The centre will be less than seventy metres from a busy 5-way intersection which carries thirty tonne cattle and gravel trucks regularly throughout the day, in addition to being busy with many cars and school buses. It is the main thoroughfare between Thorpdale and Trafalgar. The proposed centre is only metres away from two schools and the objectors fear for the safety of the children particularly at school drop-off and pick up times as traffic numbers will continue to increase, as will foot and bicycle traffic.

They believe a safer, more suitable location should be found. There is an argument that the site may be too small for the proposed 72 children and 14 staff. There must be a minimum of 234 square metres of unencumbered indoor space and 504 square metres of unencumbered outdoor space to meet the state government’s own minimum requirements for children in early childhood development environments. Due to the size of the property, all 15 carparks are of minimum size.

The site cannot accommodate a horseshoe driveway, nor a walking path for safe drop-off and pick up. At the council meeting Councillor Wallace said the fact the developer had to go to two storeys was clear the site was too small. “Why should we accept poorly planned and over-developed sites?” he added. Another concern for surrounding residents lies in the loss of township character given the style and heritage homes in the vicinity.

It is the responsibility of the Baw Baw Shire to ensure development is appropriate and addresses existing roads and maintains the rural character of the township. The objectors believe that this modern two storey building will diminish the neighbourhood and heritage character of the surrounding homes. None of the objectors have any issue with childcare centres and agree more are needed in Trafalgar.

Currently there is another childcare centre application with council, in what many of the residents believe to be in a more suitable and safer location in Trafalgar. Traf District News spoke to Tom Pye who lives next door to the proposed centre and Tom told us his bedroom is only metres from where the rubbish bins for the centre will be located. Tom suffers from emphysema among other things and uses oxygen to get through the day and he has to sleep during the day.

Tom’s wife Sue is concerned that the noise of cars and kids and the lack of sleep will worsen Tom’s already poor health. Sue is calling for acoustic fencing should the centre go ahead but realises that will only have minimum impact. Perhaps the final word for now belongs to Councillor Leaney who said at the meeting last year that if council refused the matter and it went to VCAT “I dare say they (the applicant) would be successful.” It is going to VCAT and the objectors certainly hope you are not right councillor.  *(Clark University Study 1976)