A CONTENTIOUS bid to create an aged care retirement facility in the Swan Valley will be put to a vote at this week’s City of Swan council meeting.
The site of the proposal, at lot one and two Dale Road, is between Oakover Wines and Houghton Wines in Middle Swan and is zoned rural.
Proponents of the aged care facility will be seeking approval for an “additional use” on the rural site, which would open up a community consultation period.
Retirement homes and aged care is welcomed, and needed, in the City of Swan but the prospect of locating it in the protected Swan Valley area has been mired in bureaucracy for many years.
The site sits within the Swan Valley Planning Act area, which lists aged care as an “X-use” and faces other planning challenges like a required 500m buffer zone between the nearest vineyard.
Legislation and planning guidelines in the Swan Valley only allow for an aged care facility at the Herne Hill town site and strictly rule-out any land previously used as agriculture.
But complications with drainage and sewerage at the Herne Hill site has prevented anything progressing earlier.
There is also the State Government’s pending Swan Valley development plan, which will map out strict guidelines for what developments will be suitable to carry the Swan Valley into the future.
Burgess Design Group director John Burgess represents Dale Road land owner Gordon Tucker, who has advocated for the development of aged care in the Swan Valley for years.
They are pushing for an amendment to the Swan Valley development plan to allow for an aged care retirement facility.
“The Swan Valley needs this facility and initiation of the proposed amendment will provide an opportunity for the community to confirm its desire for a local, rural style retirement/aged village,” Mr Burgess said.
“Many grape growers are now middle aged or older (and) a generational change is required to continue to run the vineyards, however, the ageing parents are keen to remain local to both the operation and the family.
“For many residents who have grown up on land in a rural environment the thought of retiring into a suburban village simply doesn’t register.”
The Swan Valley Planning Committee and City of Swan administration both recommend councillors vote against the proposal because it does not meet the Swan Valley’s planning objectives.
A City report said the retirement facility had no association with productive rural agricultural activities, could affect surrounding properties and was not in scale with the area’s rural character.
An ageing population.
There are currently no retirement accommodation options within the Swan Valley and the elderly will generally go to Midland, Guildford or Ellenbrook to retire.
Unfortunately, many of the European migrants who populated the Swan Valley through the 20th century, establishing the area’s many vineyards along the way, have either died or retired away from their land.
But statistics show the Swan Valley still has a large ageing population.
Forecast ID statistics from 2011 showed the Swan Valley area’s population of 5500 was 39.8 per cent people over 50-years-old.
The demographic forecast shows the area’s population will remain the same, but the percentage of people over 50-years-old will rise to 47.5 per cent by 2036.
For comparison, the rest of the City of Swan will be about 32 per cent over-50s by 2036.
The challenge faced by an ageing population will become increasingly evident in the near future.
According to City of Swan’s Strategy for the Ageing Population report, an additional 1050 residential aged care places will be needed by 2036 to keep up with demand.
That equates to about 13 more 80-bed aged care facilities over the next two decades – just in the City of Swan.
In addition to aged care beds, the report also shows there will be demand for 1316 new retirement village units by 2036.
Picture (above): A map of nearby retirement and aged care facilities in the City of Swan.
Do locals want it?
Swan Hills MLA Frank Alban said calls for aged care and retirement accommodation in the Swan Valley date back at least two decades.
“As long as I can remember people have said ‘Frank, you’ve got to get us a retirement village here, we want to retire with our family nearby’,” he said.
“This is a human element of the Valley and I’d say it would be compatible.”
Mr Alban stressed he supported a single seniors facility in the valley, rather than a proliferation of them.
“The proposed one at Dale Road would adequately service the Herne Hill area as well as the wider Valley,” he said.
“It has a lot of merit being close to the Midland Hospital and shops.
“We need to take these opportunities when they come – otherwise we could be looking at another 10 years before anything happens.”
To gauge the level of interest in a local retirement facility, Burgess Design Group commissioned a survey in mid-2014 and received responses from 314 Swan Valley residents.
About 22 per cent of residents said their home would not meet their needs over the next 10 years and 74 per cent supported the development of retirement accommodation in the Swan Valley.
Meanwhile, Swan Valley Ratepayers and Residents Association Inc remains sceptical.
President Jeff Williams said there was not enough detail and the survey was not sent to many ratepayer association members.
“It’s wrong to say it’s just an aged care facility for the Swan Valley because you can’t have restrictions on who goes there – it’s not possible to enforce,” he said.
“There’s also a lot of concern over whether it’s a for-profit organisation or not.
“We are not in a position to support the project, there’s not enough information to be able to even consider supporting it until we see what’s actually on the table.”
Picture (above): The site earmarked for development in Herne Hill at the corner of Great Northern Highway and Argyle Street.