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'Very unusual situation': council firm against early childcare location but admits it's needed

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Councillors have debated the need for new childcare centre that would deliver an “essential service” to a burgeoning business district.

A development application was submitted to Noosa Council in May 2022 to build the centre within the new stage of the Noosa Business Centre at Noosa Civic.

The developer of Noosa Civic, Stockwell Development Group, proposed Sanctuary Noosa Childcare Centre would be located on part of a 2478sqm vacant block with frontage to Hoffman Drive, Noosaville.

It would cater for about 96 children, especially accommodating those whose parents would work in the area, plus create jobs for 17 staff.

However, a recommendation to refuse the development was presented to councillors at a Planning and Environment Committee meeting on June 11, and further discussed at the General Committee meeting on June 17.

The recommendation noted the land is zoned Major Centre and that the proposed childcare centre was not consistent with the requirements for the business park precinct.

The childcare centre is proposed for the Noosa Business Centre at Noosa Civic.

It also outlined the proposal failed to maintain the required 10 metres of landscaping conditioned as part of the subdivision of the site, with the plans only allowing a four-metre vegetation buffer.

During the June 17 meeting, Cr Amelia Lorentson moved an alternate motion to the recommendation.

She requested staff bring forward a revised report to the July 9 Planning and Environment Committee meeting detailing conditions for approval.

“A childcare centre is vital to our community, it offers essential services and employment opportunities,” she said during the meeting.

“Establishing this centre would create jobs (and) support the influx of professionals, particularly with three new medical centres being built nearby.

“Childcare centres also play a crucial role in supporting women by enabling them to participate in the workforce

“Access to childcare allows women to continue their careers and continue their education.

“This maximises the talent and potential within the workforce driving economic growth and innovation.

“Refusing this application because it does not provide the required 10-metre buffer zone … is not in my opinion a valid reason.

“Reducing this buffer zone to four metres will not compromise the Noosa character nor will it detract from the business centre’s visual appeal.

“We face a shortage of workers in the hospitality and retail sectors. Providing accessible childcare will attract and retain staff in these industries.”

A site plan shows a four-metre vegetation buffer.

During the meeting, planning co-ordinator Nadine Gorton said the council supported the provision of a childcare centre in the area but outlined there was better-suited land within the Noosa Civic precinct for such a development.

She referenced the Village Mixed Use zone, located directly to the north of the subject site, as a possible location.

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Mayor Frank Wilkie and deputy mayor Brian Stockwell also supported the need for a childcare centre in the Noosa Civic area but did not support the current application.

Cr Wilkie described the vegetation buffer around the biggest development site in Noosa as “essential”.

“I cannot support this motion,” Cr Wilkie said.

“Of course, we need a childcare centre but there is land adjacent to (this site) that is more appropriately zoned.

“I would like to see a childcare centre in the Noosa Civic … and I would be open to a comprise where perhaps the 10-metre buffer would be retained, but for the purpose of where we are exactly here and now, I can’t support this motion that is before us.”

Cr Stockwell described the discussion as a “very unusual situation”.

He noted that an amendment to the Noosa Plan 2020 was currently out for public feedback, including to the Noosa Business Centre, and that it was important the council delivered an outcome that would be consistent with that plan.

The Proposed Amendment to Noosa Plan 2020 that impacts the Noosa Civic precinct.

“It’s not that we need to debate the childcare centre, it’s about establishing standards to achieve an outcome … where the experience when you’re driving through is one of the natural developments and not one of the built form,” he said.

“That’s the key issue and that’s the key ground for refusal.”

Cr Jessica Phillips seconded Cr Lorentson’s motion, however the remaining councillors voted against it.

Cr Wilkie then moved to agree with the staff recommendation to refuse the application. The motion was carried five votes to two.

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