Melville City Playgroup faces shutdown

Melville City Playgroup faces shutdown

MELVILLE City Playgroup could be obsolete by the end of January, unless circumstances change dramatically in its fight to remain at Applecross’ Heathcote Cultural Precinct.

Playgroup president Nichola Tomkins told the Times a special resolution would be put to members on Wednesday, with the intention being to dissolve the group.

That is because it was unsuccessful in negotiations with the City of Melville to remain at the precinct’s Swan House, where it has operated on a peppercorn lease since the early 2000s.

The playgroup accommodates about 65 families, running three sessions each weekday and renting out the space on weekends.

In February, City of Melville endorsed the Heathcote Vision and Place Plan and a business case for the site, before seeking registrations of interest (ROI) for the space.

Ms Tompkins said the group was told last Friday its ROI, a bid to remain at their current home, had been unsuccessful, despite a previous think tank of “visionary experts” proposing retention of the playgroup on site.

Melville chief executive Shayne Silcox confirmed the group had not been successful in moving forward to stage 2 of the ROI process.

Ms Tomkins admitted numbers were not what they once were – the centre had 198 registered families in 2006 and 191 in 2010 – but said a three-year lease could provide certainty for families and an opportunity to re-build.

“We know they have a vision for the area – they want to get more people here – and we want to be a part of that,” she said.

“With uncertainty over 2018, it’s really affected numbers.”

The City has put forward alternatives for the playgroup to consider, including a possible merger and a move to a community centre.

Ms Tomkins said relocation and other alternatives would see families scatter, while a shared community centre space was not preferred because it would mean packing and preparing an enormous amount of resources each day.

“It’s not that we don’t want to share space but we want to set up with other early childhood groups, rather than in a community centre shell,” she said.

Dr Silcox said the aim of the Heathcote vision was to create a vibrant precinct with “things happening all day, everyday that the greater community can enjoy”.

“In recent years, the Melville City Playgroup has unfortunately had limited attendance numbers which has contributed towards the facility being underutilised,” he said.

He said there were more than a dozen playgroups in the area, many of which were underutilised and with the capacity to take on Melville City Playgroup member families.

“Melville City Playgroup have been offered multiple options to stay as a group at other locations in various models, with both monetary and non-monetary support offered by the City,” he said.

“So far no offers have been accepted,” he said.

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