THE proposal to sell off a portion of land at the Kiama Hospital site has been labelled inappropriate by a group of residents from nearby streets.
At the July meeting of Kiama Municipal Council, councillors voted to endorse a concept plan for the $55million dollar project that would have council buy the 3.3-hectare site from the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District .
The plan includes building a new nursing home and hostel for the council’s Blue Haven Aged Care Facility.
As part of the concept plan, a vacant area at the rear of the site, which butts against the Bonaira Gardens, would be sold as eight residential blocks.
A group of residents from nearby Reid Street and Holden Avenue, who support the facility, are urging council to reconsider that aspect of the plan and believe the land would be better used if it was incorporated into the aged care facility.
‘‘We believe maintaining the entire current site as a community health/aged care precinct is for the betterment of the proposed aged care facility and is in the interest of the wider community,’’ Reid Street resident Craig Summerhayes said.
‘‘The proposed sell-off of land is a short-sighted decision and we seek the community’s support to prevail on council to exclude the sell-off of this land from its current favoured option.’’
Holden Avenue resident Sarah Marlan believes by selling the land, council would be taking away from the aged care development.
‘‘If this is supposed to be a centre of excellence for aged care, then why wouldn’t you make it as good as possible?’’ Mrs Marlan said.
‘‘It could be an open space that people can come and enjoy with their family, they could sit and walk out here and enjoy the gardens – grandchildren could come and play.
‘‘It would provide a great link to the gardens and it would leave space that could be used in the future for things like a men’s shed or hydrotherapy facility or other technologies in the future that would complement the aged care facility.’’
Fellow Holden Avenue resident Shane Gardner supports Mrs Marlan’s view.
‘‘It just clashes with what they’re trying to do here, aged care facilities often run out of room and they want to sell off this land rather than hold onto it for future use,’’ he said
‘‘It’s been proven in scientific studies that people recover better when they can engage with nature in a peaceful environment.’’
The group of residents also believe the decision to sell the land should have been made in an open meeting of council, rather than in a confidential session.
‘‘We don’t think the decision to sell this land should have been made in secret, behind closed doors,” Reid St resident Laurie Gilbert said.
“It’s community land and people should have known what was going on.
‘‘I think that’s resulted in a lack of awareness about the fact that it’s being sold off for a separate use, as private residential land, from the rest of the facility.
“I can understand any negotiations to selling being done confidentially, but not the decision to sell it.’’
A council spokesperson said the sale of the land would provide income needed for the development and restoration of the historic on-site Barroul House, while also providing quality blocks of lands for residential needs and the development would have wider benefits for the community.
The redevelopment of the Kiama Hospital site is one of the biggest projects in the history of Kiama Council and will generate many jobs.
‘‘It will also provide additional beds, retention of most on-site day health services and result in significant public ownership of the land.
“The benefits of the project for the Kiama municipality as a whole are immense.’’